HOUSTON – The most significant play of the 49ers-Texans joint practice Wednesday occurred on the first round of one-on-one matchups.
Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best in the business. Cornerback Jimmie Ward still has a lot of work to do as he switches to the outside after beginning last season as the 49ers' starting free safety.
The 49ers and Ward, in particular, can benefit from going up against Hopkins, who recorded 96 catches for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. But Hopkins and Ward hit the showers early on Tuesday before they had even had a chance to work up much of a sweat. Both were kicked out of practice for fighting.
“We’ve made it very clear that if anyone throws punches or if you do anything that will get you ejected from the game, you’ll be done with practice,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “So both players were removed from practice. Hopefully, they learned it and come back tomorrow and practice.”
During a one-on-one drill in the first minute of integrated work, Ward tried to jam Hopkins at the line of scrimmage. He got his right hand near Hopkins’ chinstrap and his helmet popped off. Hopkins caught the pass, and Ward took a swipe at the football. Hopkins shoved Ward, then threw a punch. Ward countered, and the two fell to the ground as players and coaches tried to separate them.
Ward was scheduled to line up at left cornerback in place of Richard Sherman, who did not take part in competitive drills as he returns from a hamstring strain. In Ward’s absence, Greg Mabin took over with the 49ers’ first-team defense.
“It’s a missed opportunity on a bunch of levels,” Saleh said. “One, you don’t get to face a guy like Hopkins. But it’s a trickle-down effect. Now, other people need to pick up Jimmie’s reps.
“It’s a real thing when you get ejected in a game, it’s a trickle-down effect all the way through.”
There did not appear to be any lingering bitterness, as Hopkins and Ward shook hands before departing the practice field.
Going up Against the Best
Rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey ended up on his backside during his first one-on-one pass-rush drill against Texans defensive J.J. Watt, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. After that, though, McGlinchey appeared to make an adjustment and fare better against Watt.
San Francisco nose tackle Earl Mitchell, who played on the same defensive line as Watt while with the Texans, said he tried to give McGlinchey a heads-up before the practice.
“I did what I could,” Mitchell said. “But he’s got to learn the ropes, man. Got to have some growing pains. I’m sure J.J. gave him some work and I’m sure it’s going to be beneficial for his career.”
Offensive Play of the Day
In an end-of-game scenario, the 49ers took over at their own 40-yard line with :55 remaining and trailing 24-20. On the final play from the Houston 13, Garoppolo bought time in the pocket and delivered a touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon, who tapped both feet inbounds for the touchdown.
Defensive Play of the Day
Mabin, filling in for Sherman and Ward, was tested on a fourth-down play and he had perfect positioning in order to break up Deshaun Watson’s pass intended for Will Fuller.
Moore Gets Tested
Rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore saw a lot of action come his way late in practice. He broke up a Brandon Weeden pass intended for Sammie Coates Jr. On the next play, Coates beat Moore for a 40-yard gain.
“They came back on a back shoulder the next time because of his style of play being on top,” Saleh said. “That’s the cat-and-mouse game he’s got to learn. When is it OK to be on the low hip? When can I stay on the high hip? It’s a great sequence of events for him to learn off of. He had a really good day off of what I saw with the one-on-ones and team.”
This ‘n’ That
Newly signed veteran running back Alfred Morris was issued No. 36 and took a several of handoffs in 49ers team drills against the Texans. . . Guard Joshua Garnett had an encouraging practice, as he handled third-year nose tackle Marcus Hardison in one-on-one drills and lined up with the second-team offense. Garnett missed extended time in training camp with a knee condition . . . Former 49ers receiver Bruce Ellington took a knee next to Garçon and engaged in a long conversation with the veteran wideout during a down time during special-teams drills. . . Wide receiver Trent Taylor had an impressive day as Garoppolo looked for him often in team drills. Out of Garoppolo’s first seven completions, five went to Taylor. The other two went to Marquise Goodwin. . . Three of Tyrann Mathieu’s 11 career interceptions came against the 49ers when he was a member of the Arizona Cardinals. He picked off a Garoppolo pass on Wednesday. . . Defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu returned to practice after missing several days with a groin strain. He got consistent pressure on the quarterback during his 11-on-11 action. . .Sheldon Day and DeForest Buckner also got steady pressure on the Houston quarterbacks.