ENGLEWOOD, Col. – Linebacker NaVorro Bowman helped set the tone during the 49ers-Broncos joint practice on Wednesday with a tackle on running back Ronnie Hillman during an early 11-on-11 drill.

There was no message intended for last year’s Super Bowl championship squad, Bowman said.

“I’m just practicing hard,” Bowman said. “I try to keep the morale of the team, of the defense, up. It’s just me playing ball. It got a little chippy out there, but that’s expected. In all, we want to keep everyone healthy, keep it between the lines and respect one another.”

A couple brief skirmishes broke out during the two-hour practice. Ahmad Brooks got into it with Broncos center James Ferentz, while Aaron Lynch and Denver’s Dillon Day mixed it up. On the other side of the field, Broncos Sylvester Williams threw a punch at 49ers guard Zane Beadles. There was also a brief shoving match during a special-teams drill.

The Broncos clearly landed more blows – of the non-physical nature -- when the teams went to 11-on-11 play. The Broncos landed some deep throws, while the 49ers’ offense had a difficult time functioning against Denver’s pass defense.

“They’re a great team,” 49ers safety Antoine Bethea said. “They know how to practice, how to play and how to win.”

Said Bowman, “I think we did good. There are always some things to learn from. Certain calls were missed. Certain calls weren’t made. Things like that, but we got another day to get better and we play them on Sunday.”

 

Quarterback competition: Colin Kaepernick came out to the practice field wearing full pads, but he remained mostly on the sideline. Kaepernick took part in three 11-on-11 snaps to hand the ball off during zone-read plays. He was seen throwing some light passes of about 10 yards on a side field when the teams were working on special teams. Afterward, Kaepernick signed autographs for approximately 20 minutes.

Kaepernick has not practiced since the 49ers' open practice Aug. 10 at Kezar Stadium. He is experiencing tightness in his throwing shoulder -- or arm fatigue -- after throwing from 86 to 102 passes per day through the first nine practices.

Blaine Gabbert, who continues to get all of the first-team practice snaps with Kaepernick unavailable, completed four of seven pass attempts with one interception and three sacks during team drills.

Rookie Jeff Driskel took the second-team reps, while newly signed Christian Ponder handled the third-team snaps. During the final seven snaps of team drills, the 49ers did not complete a pass and Gabbert, Driskel and Ponder each threw interceptions.

Cheering crowd: The practice was open to the public, and the crowd had a lot to cheer about. During the last team period while the Broncos recorded three interceptions, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders beat Jimmie Ward for a long touchdown catch from Mark Sanchez. The Broncos also made it difficult for the 49ers to get much going during 7-on-7 drills.

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This ‘n’ that
--Ponder worked out last week for the Arizona Cardinals. He did not have a workout with the 49ers, however. He passed a physical on Monday and was immediately signed to take the flight to Denver and participate as the team’s third quarterback. Ponder takes the roster spot that opened when Thad Lewis went on injured reserve due to a torn ACL in his left knee. Ponder completed three of eight passes with one interception and two sacks.

--Driskel completed four of nine pass attempts with one interception and one sack.

--Trent Brown continued to work with the 49ers’ first-team offensive line at right tackle. Both Brown and Anthony Davis fared well in one-on-one drills.

--Defensive lineman Arik Armstead was in full pads but did not participate in practice due to a left shoulder injury. During practice he worked on the side with the 49ers’ strength and conditioning staff, as well as Hall of Fame pass-rusher Charles Haley, who has been helping out for the past week.

--Ward made a nice play against Demaryius Thomas in a 7-on-7 drill when he stripped Thomas of the ball after what looked like a completion near the sideline.

--Rookie defensive lineman DeForest Buckner demonstrated his strength when he tossed aside Broncos tackle Donald Stephenson in a one-on-one run-blocking drill.

--Receiver DiAndre Campbell had a Gabbert pass deflect off his hands, resulting in linebacker Todd Davis’ interception. DeAndrew White and Bryce Treggs also dropped passes.

 

--Kenneth Acker recorded a sack of Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch off the left corner.

--The only noticeable injury occurred during a one-on-one drill, when Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe went down with an apparent left leg injury.

Next up: The 49ers will return to the Broncos practice facility Thursday for another joint practice, beginning at 9:30 a.m. (MT).

Tune in tonight at 5 & 11 p.m. when I'll discuss all the news from Wednesday's 49ers practice in Denver on SportsTalk Live -- and also on SportsNet Central at 6 & 10:30 p.m. -- all on CSN Bay Area.