Aldon Smith returns, Crabtree misses practice


SANTA CLARA — The seventh day of the San Francisco 49ers training camp brought about some notable returns— as well as absences — to the practice field.

After meeting with the Los Angeles district attorney on Wednesday, linebacker Aldon Smith returned to practice and looked to be in good spirits.

Smith’s legal proceeding seem to be wrapped up, though Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to announce any sort of suspension.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Smith is set to meet with Goodell on August 8 in New York. Schefter claims the Smith was due for a “significant” suspension.

Cornerback Chris Culliver returned to action today after being sidelined with a leg issue. Culliver looked solid, but it was Perrish Cox who stood out in the defensive back field today.

Despite letting Quinton Patton trot into the end zone during a two-minute drill after stumbling during coverage, Cox defensed several passes throughout the day while blanketing receivers. Most notable of the day was when Cox hung in the air to swat a deep pass away from Chuck Jacobs.

Cox also looked solid while fielding punts in the absence of LaMichael James, who was fitted for a brace for his dislocated left elbow.

Along with Cox, receiver Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton and Devon Wylie fielded punts as well. Patton and Ellington both muffed punts on the day, although Patton looked more solid than some of his other showings.

Retrievers Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd sat out today’s practice, with offensive coordinator Greg Roman saying both were working through something not believed to be serious.

Although his late season comeback from a torn Achilles tendon was admirable, Crabtree looked noticeably slower, still obviously being plagued by the severe injury.

Crabtree’s offseason performance has caught the eyes of Roman, who thinks the receiver has come into camp looking better than before:

“I think this training camp, as I look at it to me, I’m saying he’s better than the old Michael Crabtree. Why? Just physical conditioning, understanding of the game.”

Roman continued to praise Crabtree’s conditioning as the reason for his strong camp so far.

“I just think he’s in better shape. But he’s playing strong, very quick, explosive. Really driven to take care of all the little details on things.”

Stevie Johnson continues to cement his position as the No. 3 49ers wide receiver with his ability to make difficult catches look easy.

After Johnson pulled down arguably the most impressive catch of the day, Roman had high praises for the 49ers new receiver:

“He’s a very talented player. He’s got a very unique style that we noticed over the past couple years just seeing Buffalo film…We’re very excited to have him with us, because he’s a big, physical guy.”

Running back Carlos Hyde took the majority of snaps at practice Thursday. He looks as if he still needs to improve his hands out of the backfield, having dropped a few more passes today. But both his physical and mental abilities earned him praise from his coaches.

Roman elaborated on a quote that coach Jim Harbaugh made yesterday, likening the rookie to Frank Gore:

“It’s one of those things that if you can explain it to him once, it clicks with him, and that’s happened repeatedly on a lot of different things, and then he just makes that adjustment and we keep moving.”

Though Vernon Davis ended his holdout to return to training camp, the tight end has seen minimal time on the field. Second-year player Vance McDonald took the vast majority of snaps at the tight end position today — to mixed results.

McDonald dropped a few open passes but also made one of a highlight catches Thursday, turning around at the last second on a seam pass to snag a bullet out of the air with room to run.

Harbaugh has mentioned McDonald’s strides from his rookie year, and Roman elaborated on what he’s seen from the number two tight-end:

“He’s certainly put a year under his belt. He’s a lot better player than he was when he got here a year ago. He’s certainly better off for being exposed to everything that he’s been exposed to last year…I think a lot of his game is coming along.”

The 49ers return to practice tomorrow before taking a day off on Saturday. They will host their first practice at Levi’s Stadium Monday at 1:00 pm.

Follow @SFBay and @ShawnWhelchel on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the San Francisco 49ers.

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