SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After a long wait, San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas participated in his first practice with the entire team and his first since rookie minicamp in May, after the draft.
Thomas, this year's No. 3 overall pick, signed his four-year rookie contract Friday, then participated in a conditioning test before watching the rest of that practice. All of that came on the heels of the Stanford standout missing the majority of the offseason program because of league rules preventing players from practicing until their schools complete the academic year.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan didn't waste any time throwing Thomas into the mix Saturday.
“It was just good to get him out there," Shanahan said. "We wanted him to go a little yesterday and he came but he missed stretch and individuals, so we weren’t going to throw him out there without going through that process. He was a part of our walk-through yesterday afternoon and we got him out there full-go today. I know he was jacked to do that finally with all the other guys."
Thomas worked with the second-string defense, alternating between the "big" defensive-end spot and 3-technique defensive tackle. Those are the jobs he's expected to eventually perform as a starter, with the end spot his primary position and the ability to kick inside on obvious passing downs. He made his presence felt a few times, including on one Matt Barkley pass he batted down while rushing from the inside, and a couple of disrupted run plays when he forced the ball carrier into a swarm of defenders outside.
"I really won’t know exactly how he did until I get in and watch the tape," Shanahan said. "If he would have done real bad I would have probably noticed out there, or if he would have been real dominant, I would have noticed. I think he did a pretty good job. I’ll probably tell you tomorrow after I watch the tape.”
With Thomas getting his initial snaps with the second unit, Ronald Blair, who had an interception on a tipped pass Friday, moved to the third string. As it stands, Thomas will have to beat out Tank Carradine for the starting job at left defensive end. Carradine handled those duties in the spring and through the first two days of training camp.
Other news, notes and observations from Saturday:
• Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin continued his strong start to camp by getting open and hauling in a couple of deep balls from quarterback Brian Hoyer. Goodwin showed some improved ability as an intermediate route-runner Friday, and with the defense growing aware of that, he was able to take advantage of his speed to get open deep Saturday. On the long touchdown, there appeared to be a mix-up between cornerback Rashard Robinson and safety Eric Reid. According to Shanahan, out of an empty-backfield look, Reid and Robinson are supposed to flip their responsibilities, but that didn't get communicated quickly enough, allowing Goodwin to race past Robinson and haul in the pass before Reid could get over to help.
It's a good play for the offense, but Shanahan also pointed out that those things can be good for the defense to help better understand the need to communicate efficiently.
"It’s perfect, and if we wouldn’t have had that play called, they would have never saw that and then people are like, ‘No, you’ve got to communicate. Great,’" Shanahan said. "Yeah, we got it. You don’t really know until you can make them pay and now they know, ‘Yeah, [defensive coordinator Robert] Saleh’s right, we do have to communicate pretty fast.’ What if they had that called? So, those are the things you hope for for both sides of the ball. Makes the offense feels good, but I guarantee the next time we do that formation of play, they’ll cover it.”
• Rookie tight end George Kittle, whom the Niners seem to want to win a starting job or at least play a prominent role in the offense, made an acrobatic catch in the flat on a pass that was well-covered by rookie linebacker Reuben Foster. Kittle snared the pass with one hand while falling to the ground and secured it before it hit the ground as he rolled over. Kittle is working with multiple units, but his versatility is clearly working in his favor already when it comes to getting opportunities.
• Speaking of rookies performing, slot receiver Trent Taylor continues to make a strong impression while working with the backups. Taylor had a drop early in 7-on-7, then followed it by making catches on two of the next three plays and coming up with, by my count, six catches on the day between 7-on-7 and team drills. Many of those grabs are coming underneath, but he continues to get open and did have a nice catch from quarterback Nick Mullens over the middle for a sizable gain.
• The 49ers starting offensive line was the same as Friday, with a look of (from left to right): Joe Staley, Joshua Garnett, Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco and Trent Brown. Jeremy Zuttah is also getting rotated in at center and Garry Gilliam is getting some reps at right tackle.
• The 49ers used mostly the same starters on defense Saturday as they did Friday, with Keith Reaser working at corner opposite Robinson more than Dontae Johnson this time, Jaquiski Tartt (free) and Reid (strong) at safety. Malcolm Smith (Will), NaVorro Bowman (Mike) and Ahmad Brooks (Sam) are the primary linebackers, though Eli Harold continues to work in with Brooks. Up front, the Niners have been using Arik Armstead (Leo DE), DeForest Buckner (3-technique DT), Earl Mitchell (nose tackle) and Carradine (left defensive end). Elvis Dumervil also gets work at Leo in some passing situations.
• Free safety Jimmie Ward continues to work his way back from a hamstring strain but has been involved in watching practice and encouraging his teammates. He's also done some running off to the side. For now, holding him out seems more cautionary than anything. Wide receiver BJ Johnson suffered a hamstring injury Friday and did not participate in Saturday's session. Offensive lineman JP Flynn suffered what appeared to be a knee injury Saturday and practice had to be halted momentarily to tend to him. Shanahan did not have an immediate update on Flynn's status after practice.
• Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome came up with his first would-be interception of camp, picking off Barkley down the left sideline in team drills. It was up for debate whether he got two feet in, but the official on the field awarded it to him. Jerome already had a chance to stick as a backup free safety, but if he continues making plays in Ward's absence, the chances of that happening will only increase.
• There were some sloppy center-quarterback exchanges resulting in fumbles during Saturday's practice, and Zuttah airmailed a shotgun snap over the quarterback's head at one point. ... Robinson had a nice pass breakup of another deep ball thrown Goodwin's way down the right sideline and appeared to come up limping, though it turned out to be just a cramp as he returned. ... Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones showed up a couple of times, with a batted pass and a run stuff in team drills. ... The battle for the kick returner job is just beginning also with Raheem Mostert, Victor Bolden Jr., Goodwin and Matt Breida getting looks Saturday. Mostert dropped the ball on his first opportunity, but it's interesting to note that from that group of four, only Goodwin looks like a lock to make the roster. Could be a golden opportunity for a fringe player to make his way onto the roster.
• The 49ers are back at it Sunday morning with their first padded practice on the schedule.