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Notes from 49ers camp

Jason Cole
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – There's a little irritation brewing between the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff and wide receiver Darrell Jackson, who was acquired in a trade from Seattle during the NFL draft. Not enough to be a big problem right now, but certainly noteworthy.

In short, the 49ers haven't been all that impressed with Jackson's practice habits. Jackson, who has been battling turf toe and missed the afternoon practice Wednesday, has been productive over his career. He has had at least 60 catches in five of his seven seasons in the NFL and worked very well with Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

"He doesn't always finish the routes out the way you want and he's not always the first guy in line to listen, but he has always produced," said 49ers Vice President of Player Personnel Scot McCloughan, who worked with Jackson in Seattle. "From Day 1 as a rookie, he has produced and for a guy to do that, he has to be doing something right."

However, Jackson irritated Seahawks management by asking out of practice consistently.

Or as Seahawks president Tim Ruskell put it last week, "Eventually enough is enough."

Now, 49ers coach Mike Nolan is hoping to get Jackson to buy into San Francisco's way.

"Anytime you get a player from another team, there is an adjustment period. (A player) comes in with habits about how he did things in another place. I don't want to say ours are real strict, but there's a way you do things," Nolan said.

"A little thing is that a lot of guys just catch the ball and go back to the huddle. What we do is you catch it and go 30 yards no matter what. Even if the defensive guy holds you up, you see that when they break free they go 30. That has been a 49er way since Jerry Rice. It's tradition."

So much so that the 49ers have a bright red traffic light they move around the practice field to show receivers how far they need to run.

So how are Jackson's practice habits?

"OK," Nolan said.

OK as in good or OK as in bad?

"It's just OK as in okey dokey," Nolan replied. "It hasn't been bad, but it hasn't been to my expectations … It's that way with a few of the other guys. I like to think that a guy has to earn a right to be on a team. We're not asking you to do anything that won't make you better. I'm not too nitpicky. I just ask that you finish the drill because that's how you play the game."

All of that said, Nolan did have Jackson do the "breakdown" segment at the end of the morning practice Wednesday. That's when the players do a brief talk amongst themselves without coaches, led by one person.

"I thought he needed to it," Nolan said. "The team needs to find out who he is."

• Running back Frank Gore has a broken finger in his right hand and is expected to be out of practice for at least a couple of weeks. However, he wasn't happy with the decision to be sidelined.

"I told him this is going to be a blessing in disguise," McCloughan said. "You don't need to take any shots in practice. We'll get you in the last preseason game and get you ready for Arizona. He started crying, 'I need to practice. I need to be part of the team.' You love him to death and he's sincere. It kills him to not be out there."

A lot of that is based on the fact that Gore injured both knees while at the University of Miami, once losing his job to Willis McGahee. As a result, Gore continues to worry about his status despite the fact that the 49ers gave him a new contract in the offseason. The team guaranteed Gore, who led the NFC in rushing last year in just his second season, $14 million in the process.

Shortly after rewarding Gore with a new deal, the team drafted fellow back Thomas Clayton in the sixth round. The franchise was very delicate in its handling of the situation.

"I told (Gore) before the draft, 'Look, we're going to draft a running back in the sixth round.' I called him two days after the draft and said, 'You're pissed, right?'" McCloughan recalls. "He said, 'Yeah, I don't really want to talk to you.' He thinks we're drafting somebody to replace him. If he's not out here practicing with the team, he thinks somebody is getting better and is going to take his job."

In Gore's absence, Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks will get most of the work. Robinson also hit a health snag this week when he had to go to the hospital because of dehydration. On Wednesday, Robinson said he was fine.

As for Gore, despite being upset about the situation, he has strong faith in McCloughan.

Before the '05 draft, McCloughan assured Gore the 49ers would draft him in the third round if he was available.

"The first day he gets here, he wants to find the guy who told him the truth and he gave me a hug," McCloughan said. "How many players do that? That's the way Frank is. If you're straight with him, he trusts you."

• Speaking of Robinson, he talked a lot with fellow former Penn State running back Larry Johnson in the offseason, looking to pick up tips. Robinson was primarily a quarterback at Penn State before being shifted by the 49ers. He's still learning a lot of the subtle parts of being a back, such as improving his vision so that he can show better patience as he waits for the holes to develop.

"You see guys like (Gore), L.J. and (LaDainian Tomlinson) and you see how patient they are, knowing when to hit it and when to wait," Robinson said. "For me, it's about seeing the whole picture in front of me, but being able to do that without turning my head. As a quarterback, you're looking downfield on the throw and if it breaks down, you just take off. As a back, where you're looking is different."

• Don't be surprised if first-round pick and offensive tackle Joe Staley is the starting right tackle by the opener. The 49ers would love to have right tackle Kwame Harris, a former first-round pick, serve as the backup tackle and Staley has been impressive in the early going.

• Despite making several additions to the defensive line in the offseason (tackles Aubrayo Franklin, Joe Cohen and end Ray McDonald are the biggest additions), look for the 49ers to be looking at the position again come April. The team is solid with rotation players, but is in need of a top-shelf performer.