SANTA CLARA – The 49ers return to padded work on Wednesday with the team’s best opportunity to evaluate their own players.
The Denver Broncos will arrive in the South Bay for two days of practices with the 49ers. After a fully padded practice on Wednesday, the teams will be in shells on Thursday.
The second exhibition game for both teams will take place Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium.
“Almost throughout the preseason, I see practice as more important (than the games),” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s not just in the scrimmages. You never know what’s going to happen in a game. You never know what the coverages are going to be. You want to see someone, but someone misses a block, so you don’t see that person.
“In practice you can control it a little bit. You can put players in certain situations that allow you to evaluate them.”
Shanahan and Broncos first-year coach Vance Joseph spoke on Sunday to organize the practice schedule for Wednesday. They will likely get together after practice the first day to arrange the format for Thursday’s practice.
The teams will go through a variety of situational drills, including third downs and red zone.
--The 49ers held their second non-padded practice in a row on Tuesday. The practice session was a low-key affair. DeAndre Smelter had the best catch of the day with a leaping grab of a high C.J. Beathard pass over the middle. Safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted a Matt Barkley throw intended for Victor Bolden.
--Defensive end Aaron Lynch sat out with an ankle sprain. He is listed as day to day.
--Safety Jimmie Ward, who remains on physically unable to perform with a hamstring injury, is close to returning to the active list after undergoing strenuous workouts Sunday and Monday.
“ I feel real good about Jimmie,” Shanahan said. “We were hoping to get him back this week and I feel like we could if we really wanted to. But we’re trying to play it smart with him.”
--Rookie Reuben Foster is the 49ers’ starting weakside linebacker, Shanahan said. But he also left plenty of wiggle room.
“He started last game and he’s been starting out in these practices and getting most of the reps,” Shanahan said. “He could get beaten out at any time. If (a backup) starts performing at a higher level than him, that would be the case.”
--Veteran wide receiver Louis Murphy had a good connection with Barkley going. Murphy and Barkley teamed on a 5-yard touchdown in a red-zone drill. Murphy then caught three passes within a five-plan span at the end of practice.