At the very end of the 49ers 14th organized team activity of the 2010 offseason, the first and second teams squared off in a pair of spirited two-minute drill scenarios.
With the stakes being the highest they've been, both sides experienced triumphant outcomes.
The first team finished its drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to tight end Delanie Walker; the second team defense won its round when safety Curtis Taylor intercepted a pass from David Carr.
While both sides of the ball experienced success in each of the two scenarios, the beauty was in the eye of the beholder according to head coach Mike Singletary.
"It depends on what you're a fan of. If you like the defense, not good. If you like the offense, good," said Singletary at the conclusion of the team's 2010 voluntary practices.
Walker said he and his teammates get so much out of the two-minute work because it's the closest thing to a game-like atmosphere.
"The defense isn't working off a script and we don't have one either. It's based on real life situations like if we were trailing in a game and needed a touchdown to win," said the five-year pro. "I think it makes that period the best. It's live. There's no script. It's just, go out there and put together what we've been taught."
The 49ers first-team offense used their teachings to put together a solid opening drive, despite being faced with a fourth-and-one midway through the drive. Smith responded to the do-or-die situation by firing a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Josh Morgan on a deep dig route to keep the drive alive. Now in field goal position, but still in need of a score, Smith called on his receivers to run vertical routes, but signaled for the slots to break their routes inside depending on the location of the safeties matched up over the top.
Walker, one of Smith's slot receivers in the hurry up drill, saw the safety on his side head down in the box, and elected to stay vertical on his route.
Good thing he did.
Although he intended to throw the ball quickly to the weak side of the field, Smith instantly recognized the streaking Walker out of his peripheral version and launched it up in the air with touch.
"Once I threw it, I knew it (was a touchdown)," Smith said. "I didn't know initially that he was going to run free like that."
The 30-yarder thrown perfectly for Walker excited the entire 49ers offense, who elected to sprint over to Walker and join in on the celebration.
It also prompted left tackle Joe Staley to try a "Walter Payton jumping high-five" with Walker, who reciprocated the celebration with a chest-bump. Walker's momentum knocked Staley off his feet for a moment, and got a laugh out of everyone around.
"I totally lost balance," Staley said with a chuckle. "It was still a nice way to end today's practice, but there's still a lot of practice left. This offseason is not close to being over."
The 49ers will kick-off a three day mandatory minicamp on Thursday. And while it's no longer called an "OTA," it will have the same look and feel as the previous 14 sessions. The only difference is that minicamps involve two practices a day.
"The way we practice is pretty standard, we always practice hard. We have a lot of veterans on the team and we go about things the right way," fullback Brit Miller said. "I don't foresee much of a change. If you're one of Singletary's players, you're going to go hard all the time. You're going to have to fight through some stuff, that's just the way it is. But in the end, I think it will all pay off and we'll be a better team this year."
Notes and Quotes
Taylor, who ended the second two-minute drill with an interception on a Carr overthrow, had no idea it was the team's 14th OTA session. He might have known last year, but not as a sophomore. "To be honest, I stop counting the practice numbers. Last year as a rookie, I was counting and counting. But now, I'm just going with the flow. You have to put the work in this time of the year."
Smith ended practice with a touchdown, but one of his first throws went for one too. In the first team period, Smith found a streaking Dominique Zeigler down the right sideline on a 20-yard pass which would have been a likely score. The wide receiver beat the coverage of cornerback Karl Paymah at the line of scrimmage.
Undrafted linebacker Mike Balogun became the first 'backer to intercept a pass in OTAs since Parys Haralson picked off Smith weeks prior. Balogun ended a red zone period, by stepping in front of Nate Davis' 10-yard pass intended for tight end Nate Byham.
Singletary addressed the media after the conclusion of Wednesday's practice and said he was pleased overall with the team's progress this offseason. You can watch his press conference on TV49 by tuning in to the latest edition of Sinlgetary's Press Pass.
Lastly, Jerry Rice will be inducted into two Hall of Fames in 2010. The 49ers announced that the greatest wide receiver in team history will join the greatest 49ers of all-time in the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr, 49ers Hall of Fame and will be enshrined prior to the team's home opener on Sept. 20.