Practice finished about a half hour earlier than normal on Wednesday, but the first session under head coach Mike Singletary was anything but easy.
Players said that the intensity level was definitely raised, so much so that a few guys even puked.
"I can tell that the intensity as far as practice went early on, it picked up," said Lawson. "That's just one of the things he brings. He gets the best out of you. He stated how he wanted us to practice before we came out here today, and we held that part of the bargain up in the beginning, we just have to finish out and that's one of the things we need to work on."
Singletary is known for breaking down his linebacking group in bag drills at the start of training camp practices so that they are forced to push through a practice when they are tired. After all, the best teams are the ones whose players are mentally tough enough to finish out a game in the fourth quarter when they are exhausted.
Singletary also believes that the harder they practice, the easier the game will seem.
"It's better to give that now, because if we're going this hard in practice, the game is going to be easy and therefore we won't be tired during the game," explained Lawson. "I think that's one of the things coach Singletary instills in people. 'Go ahead and let it all out now, give it all you have now, because I promise you come game time, it's not going to be this hard.'"
The newly named head coach applied that principal team wide on Wednesday, pushing his guys hard right out of the gates. And when Singletary didn't see the hustle keep up throughout the entire practice, he spent six and a half minutes in his post-practice huddle making his point.
"Practice like champions and I think that sums it all up," said Lawson of the earful. "Champions don't walk, they know their assignments, they know where they need to be at, they know how to get it done. They know how to practice."
Singletary could be heard from more than two fields away shouting to his team, "I want tickets. I want tickets."
His reference, tickets to the Super Bowl.
"He was really saying what we all want," explained Lawson. "We want to win the division, we want a winning record and we just want to get to the playoffs – it's never that. Anybody who plays football, like he says, he calls it the big dance, one of the headaches you want is when you make it to that dance that friends and family call, talking about 'I want some tickets'. That's one of the things he was harping on. Your phone ringing, email, text messages, or whatever. That's a headache, but we know why it's there. It's because we've paid our due. We just have to come out and show our skills."
While Lawson and the rest of the 49ers linebackers already had a clear cut understanding of what they were getting when Singletary was promoted on Monday night, players like Nate Clements predict that his words and vision will spread quickly.
"I am definitely anxious and excited to get this thing going," said Clements. "One thing I can say about Coach Singletary is that when he talks, I know for me, I listen because what he has to say inspires me to try to go out and do more and be the best that I can be. He's been in the trenches. He knows what it takes. He's played in the big one. "
With a 2-5 start on the season, the 49ers have serious ground to cover if they hope to be even a playoff contender, let alone in the big one, but in a weak NFC West division, it's actually far from impossible.
"This week is crucial before the bye," said defensive end Justin Smith. "We are not out of this thing, by any stretch of the imagination, considering the division we are in. we are not out of it, and we have to take advantage of the division we are in and make the most of it. We still have a shot to win this thing. We just have to play better."
The 49ers defense already stepped up their level of play last week against the New York Giants, limiting the number one rushing offense in the NFL to 112 net yards rushing and converting 71 percent of the time on third downs.
"I think last week was a test for our defense," said linebacker Joe Staley. "Although we did give up some points and we didn't play a perfect game, it was a step on the way to being a better defense and I think the game plan we have this week is going to be very effective. We just have to go out and get it done on Sundays."
Seattle has picked up some new and experienced receivers since the first meeting in Koren Robinson and Keary Colbert, and gotten back last year's leading receiver in Bobby Engram. But with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck unlikely to play for the third straight game, Seattle slumps into town with a downtrodden passing attack that currently ranks 32nd in the NFL.
Seattle's head coach Mike Holmgren said Seneca Wallace, who finished last week with only 73 passing yards is likely to start.
"As far as Seneca is concerned, he's a mobile quarterback," said Smith. "He can move and run with the ball. If he doesn't see what he likes, he's going to try to run with it. We have to keep our pass rush lanes and make sure we don't get too far up field on him so that he can just evade the rush and run for a first down."
The 49ers also have to be wary of tight end John Carlson's ability to pick up first downs. The rookie out of Notre Dame caught six balls against the 49ers secondary, and has since developed into a receiving machine, leading the Seahawks in catches and yards.
"To my knowledge, he has doubled the catches of the receivers," said Lawson. "We think he's going to be one of their go-to guys, especially on third down. That's one of the guys, who we'll have to really get under his skin and shut him down."
Carlson wasn't the only player coming up with big gains in that earlier divisional contest. Running back Julius Jones enjoyed his first 100-yard ground game with 26 rushes for 127 yards, including a long touchdown run of 27 yards.
Given his success, along with the absence of their Pro Bowl quarterback, stopping the run is the number one priority this Sunday.
"I think that's one of the things we're really going to focus on," said Lawson. "They did scar us with the run game last time real bad. We don't want a repeat. We're going to work on, stopping the run game, getting after Julius Jones and really getting after their offensive line. They have Sean Locklear back, and are a little beat up at receiver, so we're kind of think that's what they're going to focus in on, especially without Hasselbeck in there."
Regardless of who ends up being in the game for Seattle, the 49ers are primarily concentrating on their own shop. The consistent theme for the 49ers throughout their four-game slide hasn't been so much the opponent, but beating themselves.
"It's a matter of building on last week and trying to get more towards mistake-free football. Anytime big runs or big passes have happened, it's more assignments and how you played your assignments," said Smith. "We are trying to clean those things up and progress sand get where we need to get because we are not there yet."
And though the curtain has far from fallen on the 2008 season, if the 49ers do intend to make it to the grand finale, or as Singletary calls it, "the big dance," they better get to that mistake-free football quickly.
Wednesday Practice Notes:
DE Ray McDonald and S Dashon Goldson have been ruled out of the game after suffering knee injuries in last week's game against the Giants.
Although the 49ers should be in good shape come Sunday, the 49ers were a bit thin in the secondary during the afternoon practice. CB Nate Clements was limited due to a rib injury, while the 49ers other starting CB in Walt Harris doesn't work on Wednesdays per a schedule set up for the veteran player. Starting safeties Michael Lewis (knee) and Mark Roman (groin) also missed the session. Tackle Jonas Jennings did not practice and told reporters that although his shoulder has improved and he's not out of the sling, doctors have told him he's again out for this week. There has been no official out ruling however on the team's injury report. Lastly, receiver Josh Morgan and returner Allen Rossum were held out with groin injuries.
Center Gets Contract Extension
The 49ers confirmed reports on Tuesday that center Eric Heitmann has received a contract extension.
I've been a Bay Area native since my freshman year of college at Stanford in '98," said Heitmann. "I love this area, my wife loves this area and I've been part of the 49ers family for seven years. I think we have a great shot of being successful. Those are my motivations for staying."
The 49ers drafted center Cody Wallace in the fourth-round pick this off-season, and expect the rookie out of Texas A&M to eventually inherit the job. That's a situation that Heitmann said he doesn't concern himself over.
"For me, you take everything one day at a time. Guys get drafted and they make moves. From your own personal standpoint, you play as hard as you can every day and the rest will take care of itself."
Heitmann also discussed the release of his offensive line coach George Warhop.
"All I can really say is it's really unfortunate. Coach Warhop has been a great coach for this o-line and for me in particular. He's a great coach, great person and a friend. He's been my coach here for the last four years."