Around the NFC West: Willis' perfect 99

Jon Robinson of ESPN.com checks in with 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who loves his 99 rating on "Madden NFL 11." Willis: "It's truly an honor just to be in the game because when I was a kid, I used to created myself in 'Madden' and give myself all 99s. I feel like I should be a 99 in everything ... I didn't just want to be an 80 in this or an 80 in that. I was striving for that 99 in real life. So now to be in 'Madden' and see my character improve throughout the years to the point where now I'm a 99, it's really a blessing."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers fans did not boo quarterback Alex Smith's first pass of training camp -- unlike last season.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers want to go deep. Barrows: "So far, Smith and (Ted) Ginn haven't connected on anything deep, not in practices anyway. But Smith said that's because the passing game is adjusting to the speed and physicality of practices. Smith's arm has fully returned from the last surgery he had in 2008, and he says he and Ginn worked hard on building chemistry during the offseason."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com singles out one play from the morning practice: "Michael Crabtree turned in the play of the practice session with a tremendous over-the-middle grab in which he reached up and snatched Nate Davis’ pass out of the air in front of multiple converging defenders."

Also from Price: inside linebackers went against guards instead of running backs in Mike Singletary's nutcracker drill. Scott McKillop: "It was a harder challenge for us, but it will make us better. We’re in a situation where we need to work on leverage and using our hands to separate. It’s going to be difficult but it’s something that will make us a better player."

More from 49ers.com: a transcript featuring comments from Singletary. On Alex Smith: "I'm hoping he gets more comfortable as we go. I just think that as we’re out here we just have to continue to allow him the snaps that he needs to continue to get better. But he has the control of the offense, it’s just a matter of making sure that he takes the time to really see the whole defense and not just maybe sometimes look at the safety. You’ve got to see the whole thing."

More still from 49ers.com: Roger Craig's thoughts on Jerry Rice.

Ann Killion of CSNBayArea.com offers thoughts on Rice's impending Hall of Fame induction.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com singles out Brit Miller's big hit on Parys Haralson as a memorable play from 49ers camp.

Also from Maiocco: a look at how many reps key players received in the afternoon practice. Maiocco: "(Mike) Iupati got 19 valuable reps at left guard with (David) Baas out. Safety Reggie Smith, inside linebacker Scott McKillop and defensive end Demetric Evans worked with the first units in place of (Michael) Lewis, (Takeo) Spikes and (Justin) Smith. ... Alex Smith took 19 reps, completing 8 of 15. David Carr had nine reps and completed 2 of 7. (Nate) Davis took six snaps and completed 4 of 6."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Kentwan Balmer thinks improved health could help the 2008 first-round choice produce.

Also from Brown: Khalif Mitchell impressed in nutcracker drills.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are missing nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says fullback Brit Miller impressed at 49ers practice Monday. Also: "Taylor Mays, already enjoying the improved status of the second-team defense, made a pair of nice plays late in practice. He blanketed TE Joe Jon Finley on a short route, helping disrupt a pass from Alex Smith, and on the next play read a gadget play perfectly and was there to touch down the ball carrier."

Also from Barber: various 49ers-related notes, including one about Jason Hill making the catch of the morning practice. On Ted Ginn Jr.: "Ted Ginn looked good running one-on-one vs. DBs in a morning drill, beating Tramaine Brock and Karl Paymah twice on various routes -- one against Paymah on a deep touchdown throw from David Carr. But he wrapped up his day's work by dropping an easy ball that LB Keaton Kristick had batted right to him." If Ginn was consistent, the Dolphins probably would have kept him. The 49ers could use the threat of Ginn's speed, but it's an upset if he becomes a polished, consistent receiver.

More from Barber: surprise over the fact that Willis didn't dominate nutcracker drills the way he dominates during games. Willis' ability to avoid blocks and make tackles helps make him a special linebacker. The nutcracker drill is all about taking on blocks and overpowering opponents.

Note: I'm breaking out each team separately today because there's too much stuff for a single Around the NFC West file.