SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few thoughts after watching a third consecutive day of San Francisco 49ers practices:
Rookies have performed better than Harbaugh expected given the condensed offseason. Second-round pick Colin Kaepernick is furthest along among draft choices and undrafted free agents. Coach Jim Harbaugh: "He's really ready. I was worried for the rookies because they didn't have the OTAs and minicamps, that preseason games would come, cuts would come and maybe the light wouldn't go on soon enough for them because they didn't know what to do, and we would overlook a player who had a chance to help our football team. That has been the surprise thing to me, just how well our rookies are doing. ... 'Kap' really is leading the way in that."
The 49ers expect Kaepernick and the three other quarterbacks to play in their exhibition opener against New Orleans on Friday.
The 49ers finished practice 12 minutes early thanks to the fast tempo Harbaugh encourages. The team continues to work through post-lockout procedural issues, notably center-quarterback exchanges. Harbaugh: "Not 100 percent perfect, not 100 percent right, and to be honest with you, I don't want it 100 percent right or perfect. Then it wouldn't be challenging enough."
Harbaugh said practices have improved each of the past three days. Monday's session appeared particularly sharp. There have been more dropped passes and misfires over the past couple days. Alex Smith threw behind Josh Morgan on one play, and Morgan couldn't hold on. Tight end Delanie Walker dropped a pass. Smith threw high and missed tight end Konrad Reuland. What does it all mean? There's room for improvement and improved consistency. Players could be getting anxious to play a game against another team.
The coaching staff is adjusting to NFL logistics for play-calling. The game against the Saints will give Harbaugh and his offensive staff a chance to use radio headsets. Coaches use hand signals to relay play calls on the college level.
Harbaugh said he thinks the first 11 practices will mean more in the evaluation process than the first exhibition game.
Newly re-signed safety Dashon Goldson was back at practice and spoke with reporters afterward. The free-agent experience was frustrating for him, Goldson said. He said New England made a contract offer to him, but his heart was with the 49ers. Goldson's West Coast roots apparently came into play in the absence of a dramatically larger long-term offer elsewhere. Goldson: "This is home for me. Unfortunately, it didn't work out long term. But as long as I got another opportunity to be here, I was going to take that."
Harbaugh, on how much player-organized workouts during the offense helped early in camp: "Very much. It's been very noticeable with all of our offensive players that they did significant work and study in the offseason, the camps where they got together and all those things has resulted in a unit that is ahead of any I have just gotten together with and installed after 11 practices."
Braylon Edwards has suffered from tightness in his legs, but he said he's healthy heading into the exhibition opener. He's focused on getting to know his quarterback, Smith, in an effort to understand how best to communicate. Edwards: "He's a cool guy. Alex is always here, he is always about football and he is always open to extra work. That makes it easy."
Edwards on injured receiver Michael Crabtree: "Crab has been around. He is very smart. He is in our meetings. He is very attentive. He goes over plays, he knows what he and the other receivers are supposed to be doing. He comes out here to practice, he watches, we go over some things when I'm not in. I feel like we can have a real good rapport." Edwards, the third overall choice in 2005, said high draft choices often wind up with struggling teams, and it's important for all of them, including Crabtree, to persevere.
Edwards is giving the 49ers needed size and talent at receiver in Crabtree's absence. He's just different physically from the other receivers participating in practice. Initial impressions are positive.
I'm heading to the airport shortly and looking forward to writing my "Camp Confidential" piece on the 49ers for Thursday.