49ers’ QB Davis working hard to learn playbook
SANTA CLARA – Picture a living room study session between two football players, a thick book of offensive schemes and formations and the NBA Finals as background noise.
The quarterback, 49ers second-year pro Nate Davis, has dyslexia and often works for close to 45 minutes at night with housemate and San Francisco wide receiver Dominique Zeigler to master the system. Davis’ learning disability often causes him to mix up basics like left and right – not a good thing in the football world when sets and blocking patterns depend on directions.
He has a tough time “getting the play out” and actually executing a given call.
“I know what I’m doing out there. It’s just saying the play, that’s my main problem, getting the words out,” Davis said. “I made big progress from last year. I’ve just got to keep on working.”
Quarterback David Carr, signed to a two-year contract in March, has been receiving a significant number of reps during offseason workouts so he can learn the 49ers playbook. That has limited Davis’ chances.
Coach Mike Singletary said Monday that Davis isn’t coming along as quickly as the coaches would have hoped.
“He’s coming, not as fast as he would like, not as fast as the coaches would like, but he’s coming,” Singletary said. “I think the biggest thing with Nate is to figure out how he learns and get that burning desire to do whatever it takes to be out here and to get it done. I know he can do it, it’s just a matter of him doing it. Time will tell.”
Davis was told of his coach’s remarks for the first time after Tuesday’s practice – and he didn’t argue with the assessment.
He plans to reach out to Singletary soon, to “just see where he’s at with me.”
“He’s the head coach. And now I’ve got to put more into it,” Davis said. “That’s what it all comes down to.”
Speaking a day after Singletary, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he believes Davis could challenge Carr for the backup job behind Alex Smith when the time comes.
“His progress has been impeded by the fact we have an additional quarterback, but I think his progress to this point has been OK,” Raye said of Davis, the team’s fifth-round draft pick in 2009 out of Ball State.
Davis’ aim is to win the backup job.
“I don’t want to be someone who sits on the bench their whole life,” he said.
Thus, the extra work with Zeigler, who lives in Davis’ Santa Clara home. The quarterback’s girlfriend helps out, too.
Zeigler said he benefits from the extra studying in the process.
“We’ll go over the script,” Zeigler said. “Sometimes he’ll ask me the play, what we have in a certain formation. Or I’ll read the play to him and he’ll tell me his reads, which read is first. He’ll tell me which the hot is. We just basically just test ourselves.”
Getting Davis up to speed is an important step for an offense led by Smith that Singletary and Raye say is ahead of schedule at this stage – more than a month before the start of training camp.
While Smith isn’t facing a pass rush in these practices, he has been crisp and accurate, and the receivers are making some athletic catches when the ball isn’t right on target. Ted Ginn Jr. made a pretty diving grab for a 20-yard gain Tuesday and Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis had a couple of leaping receptions.
“We are just so much further ahead of the game compared to last year with everything,” Smith said. “We really have the foundation set and we are able to build on it now.”
It helps having the stability with Raye back for a second season after Smith experienced a different offensive coordinator in each of his first five NFL seasons. Last year, Raye was the seventh person in the job in as many years.
“If you have to change that every year consecutively as you start, then it would be mind-boggling to think where he would be if he was in a change again. I think it would be unparalleled,” Raye said.
The 49ers also are counting on their two highly touted offensive linemen draft picks learning in a hurry: 11th choice tackle Anthony Davis and No. 17 selection guard Mike Iupati.
Defensive end Ray McDonald flattened Davis during 11-on-11 drills, then razzed the rookie a bit afterward. Raye said the team would probably wait until at least after the first exhibition game in August to determine its starting offensive line.
He is eager to see the two rookies in full pads at the start of camp in July. Any first impressions?
“They’re huge,” Raye said.
Notes: RB Frank Gore practiced after he missed Monday’s workout because his arrival was delayed by travel problems from Miami. … CB Tarell Brown came up hobbling after going down while covering a play in the end zone and didn’t practice the rest of the time. … The 49ers don’t plan to hold any joint practices with the Oakland Raiders as they have done during the past two training camps because the teams play each other in the regular season this year. … Former Stanford OT Matt Kopa observed Tuesday’s session and later signed a free-agent deal with the team following a physical. He withdrew his appeal to the NCAA for a sixth year of NCAA eligibility based on medical hardship because of a broken foot.