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Worth the Wait

Posted Aug 5, 2011

Delanie Walker had his game shoes polished and ready.

The red and black football cleats in front of the 49ers tight end’s locker had an immaculate shine to them Friday afternoon. It was a few hours before the start of a three-hour training camp practice and Walker was already anticipating the presence of the 49ers Faithful out for the first day of open training camp practices.

Walker wanted to look his best for his fans. So he made sure he had his game shoes on.

“It feels like a game,” Walker said of the team’s open practices. “It was live out there today. The fans were waiting to see us, and so we went out and give them a show.”

With fans packing the stands, the team delivered one of its most intense practices of training camp. Alex Smith turned in arguably the finest play of the day, when he connected with wide receiver Chris Hogan down the left sideline for a 50-yard pass during 11-on-11.

Following the play, second-year running back Anthony Dixon tried to rile up the crowd, putting his hand next to his ear and motioning for them to make some noise.

“The fans, they definitely hyped it up a little bit more,” Dixon said. “I definitely want it loud on Sundays, so why not today? Get ‘em going early.”

In fact, it was Dixon who set the tone early on Friday when he lowered his shoulder into Patrick Willis after a short gain, drawing some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the fans.  

 “I kind of got him today,” Dixon said with a laugh. “He was kind of mad after that, I’m definitely going to be hearing about that.”

Dixon’s intensity hasn’t gone unnoticed in camp so far. Coach Jim Harbaugh has allowed Dixon to break the team down after a few of the practices already. According to Dixon, the 49ers coach has chosen players to call the team up based on strong practice performances.

“I don’t think he’d let me do that if I was out there messing around and not getting my job done,” Dixon said. “I took that as a sign of respect. I feel when a player gets to do that is respect from your coach.”

Midway through Friday’s practice, Harbaugh surprised the players by letting them go live for the first time throughout training camp. Not only that, but referees sprinkled the practice fields for the first time this fall, giving the practice a game time feel.

Willis, the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, was also pleased to see the support of the team’s faithful fans. Knowing how much fans were eager for the season to begin, he expected a big turnout of support.

“I was excited to have them out there,” Willis said. “I bet that was something they’ve been wanting for awhile. So to have them out there today, it made for a lot better practice. It gave us that extra energy that we needed to get better.”

Walker noted that the team’s first week of practices have gone well. Now, fans were able to see the progress made by the team in their first week under Harbaugh’s coaching staff.

“We’ve had about six days with nobody watching us and it was just the team trying to get better,” Walker noted. “Now, we got to show our fans what we’ve been doing. I think it’s exciting, everybody was hyped today.”

Notes and Quotes

Newly- acquired wide receiver Braylon Edwards garnered some of the biggest applause throughout the afternoon, as the 49ers faithful got its first chance to see the playmaker up close. The crowd also enjoyed watching Harbaugh in action, as the first-year coach doubled as a defensive end and a defensive back during some drills.

At one point, a fan yelled, “Get ‘em Jim!” before Harbaugh smiled and shared a laugh with the crowd.

Rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick also turned in a couple of nice plays throughout the afternoon, including a deep completion that he pulled off despite throwing off his back foot while rolling out to his left. Defensively, linebacker Larry Grant had a nice interception during 7-on-7 drills, when he grabbed a tipped pass that was intended for Vernon Davis in the red zone.

Photo of the Day

Plenty of photographers attended the first open practice of training camp.

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