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49ers’ Smith making up for lost time

SANTA CLARA – The San Francisco 49ers didnt get much from Reggie Smith during his first two NFL seasons. The young safety is making up for lost time this summer.

Smith has emerged as one of the teams defensive standouts this training camp, and that carried over to San Franciscos preseason opener last week when he returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown to spark a 37-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

After recording just one tackle in minimal playing time the past two seasons, Smith appears to be earning a role in San Franciscos coverage packages as the third safety behind starters Dashon Goldson and Michael Lewis. He often will replace Lewis on passing downs.



“Its about that third year when those players start to click and they start to get it,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said Friday. “I think thats what you see happening with Reggie. Hes maturing as a player and he understands his role. Hes been doing it throughout training camp.”

Smith again will see extensive playing time in Sundays nationally televised exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. Hes intent on making another strong impression.



Smith was San Franciscos third-round draft pick in 2008, coming out early after his junior season at Oklahoma. He has gradually made the transition to safety after entering the NFL as a cornerback and playing that position throughout his rookie season.

After the 49ers used a second-round draft pick to acquire safety Taylor Mays this spring, Smith figured it was time to step it up.

“I felt like there was pressure going into training camp,” Smith said. “Coming into my third year, I really havent played too much. It was kind of like make-it-or-break-it time for me. So I feel like I have to have a big camp. And I think Im on the right step.”

The 49ers are placing focus this year on upgrading the safety position, and Smith is making an impression in that area on coach Mike Singletary.

“I see a more confident player,” Singletary said. “I see a player that really is beginning to understand what were trying to do on the back end, all of the little detailed things. I really like what Ive seen in him.”

TAKING OFF THE GLOVES: Second-year quarterback Nate Davis has worn gloves on both hands throughout his collegiate and professional career. Until now.

“I just felt like it was time to take them off,” Davis said this week. “Nobody asked me to do it. I feel good about the way Im throwing without the gloves. As of right now, Im not wearing gloves no more.”

Davis played without gloves for the first time during last weeks victory over the Colts. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 84 yards in the fourth quarter for a quarterback rating of 118.8.

Davis also was impressive playing against reserves during the preseason last year. Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye both said Davis is likely to get into games earlier in San Franciscos final three preseason outings, perhaps even against opposing starters.

“We want to put him in a situation where hes playing against a little better competition earlier in the game and see how he fairs that way,” said Singletary, who indicated Friday that Davis could be the second quarterback in the game after starter Alex Smith against the Vikings.

BAAS ENTRENCHED AT CENTER: Veteran David Baas, who began training camp as the teams starting left guard, appears to have entrenched himself as San Franciscos starting center in place of injured regular Eric Heitmann.

The 49ers moved Baas to center after Heitmann broke his left leg early last week. The team said then that Baas would compete with veteran Tony Wragge for the starting job. But Baas grabbed hold of the position with a fine performance at Indianapolis.

“Baas just really handled himself really well,” Singletary said. “The thing that we wanted to know was if Baas could do it in a game. He handled the calls really well, the protections, he snapped the ball with ease. So there was a lot of comfort in that and hopefully we can continue to go forward with that.”

EXTRA POINTS: TE Vernon Davis (knee) and WR Michael Crabtree (neck) participated in individual drills during Fridays afternoon practice, but both have been ruled out for Sundays game. LBs Travis LaBoy (concussion) and NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), who both missed last weeks game, will see their first action as 49ers against the Vikings. Singletary indicated the 49ers would again hold out starting RB Frank Gore, who didnt play against the Colts. RB Brian Westbrook, acquired by the 49ers this week, will be a game-time decision, Singletary said.


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