SANTA CLARA -- Leonard Davis has started every NFL game he has ever played. That's 155 starts, which includes a stretch of 64 straight games from 2007 and 2010. But what the three-time Pro Bowl guard wants starting with Friday night's preseason game against the Vikings is snaps -- as many as he can get."For me right now, as much as possible," Davis said. "I got to get out and play and get comfortable, and right now, it's not like I've been here, been around and know the system. . . . For me to go and play this preseason that is going to mean a lot for me."Davis signed a one-year deal with the 49ers the day veteran players reported for training camp. He has been cramming to learn the offense in the 15 days since."It was tough at first. We were doing a lot of installation, and what was crazy was we had to do an install and then I'd have to kind of learn everything from that day, and then the next day we're doing more, so it was kind of piling up. I was getting a little frustrated a bit at first," Davis explained. "I've ran all the same plays, but it's just a lot of nuances and how we go about executing plays. But from where I was from when I first got here to where I am now it's a big difference. I'm more comfortable with it now."Up until the 2011 season, Davis had never started fewer than 14 games a season, including all 16 regular-season games his rookie year in 2001. It is not hard to understand why. Head coach Jim Harbaugh described the 6-feet-6, 355-pound Davis as "probably the largest man I've ever stood toe-to-toe and knee-to-knee with in my entire life." He dominates with his size and strength. But his drive to keep learning and improving while he competes with Alex Boone to be the starting right guard, has impressed his quarterback."There are many guys that have played as long as he has that have a lot of egos especially when it comes to preseason," Alex Smith said. "A guy that's been the starter, been to Pro Bowls and all of sudden he's not in that role anymore. It's hard for them to handle that. He's a guy I really feel like checks his ego and just comes to work every single day no matter what's asked of him. . . . Whatever it is, he's willing and wants to get the reps and take advantage of it.""My thing was knowing the offense and getting as comfortable with it as possible," Davis said, "And also, while doing that, striving to work on technique and being conscious of what I'm actually doing and how I go about executing assignments."The only down year of Davis' career came last season. After starting 16 regular season games and one playoff game for the Cowboys in 2010, Dallas released him before the start of their 2011 training camp. The move reportedly saved the team 9.5 million in cap space. The Lions signed Davis halfway through the season but never activated him for a game. When a player with as much game experience as Davis misses an entire season, questions begin to arise over his future production. He worked during the offseason to provide answers.Davis is currently 20 pounds lighter than he has ever been in his career. He also underwent offseason foot surgery from which he is now completely healed. Physically, Davis feels good. He has no problems other than the usual nicks from practice. He is ready to prove himself, ready to be a starter again and ready for the usual nicks that come from taking snaps in a game. As many as he can get.
SANTA CLARA -- Dwight Clark and Joe Montana are scheduled to address the crowd Sunday at Levi’s Stadium at halftime of the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.
It should be an emotional day, as 36 members from the team that defeated Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title are expected to attend.
Montana is scheduled to be surrounded by his former teammates and speak from the field at halftime. Clark is likely to be situated in a suite, where he is expected to make some remarks. Clark, 60, announced in March he was diagnosed with ALS.
Former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast, said he is looking forward to seeing so many of his teammates from the squad that served as a springboard for five Super Bowl titles under the ownership of Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo.
“I can’t wait to see (Clark),” Cross said. “I can’t wait to see Eddie. I can’t wait to see Joe. There is a core group of guys I’ve gotten to see a few times a year since we all went our separate ways. There are guys I’ll get a chance to see, in some cases, (for the first time) since almost around the time we parted ways in the early-‘80s.”
The NFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982, is best-remembered for “The Catch” – Clark’s leaping, finger-tip grab of a Montana pass for a 6-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.
The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-27 at Candlestick Park. Coach Bill Walsh’s team went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI.
“For those of us who played on the Niners charity basketball team with both Joe and Dwight, and knowing their hoop skills and the way they could jump, we weren’t terribly surprised at: A, how high he threw it; and, B, how high Dwight got,” said Cross, who was blocking from his right guard position near the sideline and had an unobstructed view of the play.
“If Dwight got his fingers on it, it was going to be a catch. That was the thing about D.C., you won’t find too many instances in which he had a ball on him or near him that he dropped. There wasn’t much doubt.”
Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.
“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.
Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.
“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”
Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.
“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”
Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.
“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”
Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.
“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”
Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.
“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”