SANTA CLARA — Thursday was the last real day of training camp as far as the 49ers are concerned.
Once the players and coaches move out of the hotel, it’s back to regular life, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive leader NaVorro Bowman.
“You don’t think about it much, but yeah, training camp is over,” Shanahan said. “What that means is we aren’t all staying in dorms together and we’re not having night walk-throughs.”
The last day of camp is always bittersweet. Sure, everyone gets to return to their families, but they’ll always miss the memories of making friendship bracelets and telling scary stories.
Here are the most interesting storylines to emerge from the Niners’ joint practice with the Denver Broncos, who they’ll play in Week 2 of the preseason on Saturday.
OF COURSE THERE WERE FIGHTS
If you’ve ever watched “Hard Knocks,” you know that NFL players get tired of hitting their teammates day after day. So, whenever another team comes to town, it’s time to really let some aggression out.
On Thursday, Brian Hoyer threw a pass that was tipped by Chris Harris and eventually intercepted by Justin Simmons. Harris chased the play and aimed to lay a crackback block on Pierre Garcon, who saw it coming and tackled the physical cornerback.
Naturally, a skirmish ensued. And it felt like football season had finally started.
No one was hurt, so this episode will be remembered fondly. A team-building exercise, if you will.
Shanahan praised his players for their willingness to back each other up, but don’t expect him to put his chin out there.
“I’m not ready to take a punch right now,” he said. “I’m going to keep my distance. I try to do what I can, but that’s not much.”
HIGH PRAISES FOR TRENT BROWN
Von Miller, the game’s best pass-rusher, said the 49ers have two of the best offensive tackles in the league in Joe Staley and Trent Brown. He went even further to say that Brown is the top at his position.
“There’s not another tackle who’s that tall, that big and can move the way he moves,” Miller told reporters on Wednesday.
That’s extremely high praise for the 24-year old.
Shanahan wasn’t ready to echo it verbatim.
“I think one thing that’s tough about O-Linemen in this league is you can be perfect for 67 plays and then three plays you’re off and those are the three plays that change the game,” Shanahan said. “… I think, one thing about O-Linemen is consistency. Trent has a lot of ability, and I think he’s working very hard since we’ve been here to get the most out of his ability. The more consistent he can be, he’s tough to deal with when he’s on.”
The good news is Brown will have ample opportunity to improve his consistency in a low-risk environment, because protecting Brian Hoyer is much different than if the Niners had spent a high draft pick on their franchise quarterback.
Linebacker Reuben Foster was held out of 11-on-11 contact drills — much to his dismay — after experiencing soreness in his AC joint in his shoulder, the same one that was surgically repaired.
NaVorro Bowman was removed from drills midway through practice on Thursday.
Bowman insists there’s nothing to be concerned about as he’s gone through this several times. But hearing Ray-Ray Armstrong joke that he’s fragile during drills couldn’t have felt good for the veteran who hasn’t been able to play in game action since Week 4 of last season.
WHO’S NO. 2?
Matt Barkley has been an inconsistent thrower throughout training camp. He’s also dropped down the depth chart.
Shanahan confirmed Thursday that third-round pick CJ Beathard would lead the second-unit against the Broncos on Saturday.
If this arrangement becomes permanent, don’t expect Barkley to be in Santa Clara for much longer.
RETURN OF THE SKOV
With the 49ers’ linebacker corps limited — Jayson DiManche and Donavin Newsom are on the injured reserve — the team brought back Shayne Skov on Thursday.
Skov was born in San Francisco and went to Stanford. He’s a former player of Jim Harbaugh twice over, so you know he’s well-trained.
MORE ANTHEM TALK
Shanahan was asked for his opinion on national anthem protests on Thursday,and he took the same approach — the correct one — of his predecessor, Chip Kelly.
“I think everyone can agree there’s lots of stuff that’s pretty sad to see right now,” he said.
An understatement if there ever was one.
According to SportsBettingDime.com, the 49ers have the longest odds of any team in the NFC to make the playoffs at 40-1.
With odds that favorable, it wouldn’t be a bad bet to lay a couple bucks on the Niners picking up Shanahan’s system ahead of schedule and shocking the world.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a good bet, either.