ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The 49ers did not get much going offensively or defensively through most of Wednesday’s joint practice with the Denver Broncos.
But when things turned, they turned in a hurry.
On one field, safety Antoine Bethea intercepted a Peyton Manning pass, prompting a wild celebration on the 49ers’ sideline. At about the same time on the other field, quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit tight end Garrett Celek down the middle for a long touchdown pass.
“I saw Celek’s touchdown and the back end of Bethea’s (interception),” said 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, who tried to keep tabs on the developments on both fields.
The 49ers had a difficult time adjustment to practicing at a quick tempo at high altitude. And there was a noticeable adjustment period during the 1-hour, 45-minute practice at the Broncos’ training facility. The 49ers deemed the first day of practice a major success.
“I think when you get to see what happened today, I think that’s awesome. To me, I’d take that tape and say, ‘That’s what you want this to look like,’” Tomsula said. “It was two teams, bunch of professional athletes out there, working like crazy against each other, competing, and having fun and going about their business. I thought it was tremendous by both teams.”
Said Kaepernick, “You get different looks from a different defense. You get to go against different players that you don’t know their tendencies. You don’t know what their disguises look like, things like that. It’s an opportunity to come out and hone in on what you want to get done.”
The teams are scheduled to practice against each other again on Thursday. After a day off, the 49ers and Broncos will play an exhibition game on Saturday.
Offensive play of the day: The 49ers’ passing game did not make many plays throughout the practice and there were some issues with pass protection, but they finished on a high note with Kaepernick’s deep pass to Celek.
“That was good,” Kaepernick said. “I thought it was huge because the play before, he’d jumped offsides and he came back and made a huge play for our offense. Just mentally, just the focus he had to come back and make a big play like that was big for us.”
Defensive play of the day: Bethea went up against Manning every day in training camp for five seasons when they were teammates with the Indianapolis Colts. Bethea made the defensive play of the day when he cut in front of wide receiver Cody Latimer at the left sideline to intercept Manning.
“I think he probably thought we were in a different coverage,” Bethea said. “In my head, I’m thinking he might think we’re in this coverage just because Bow (NaVorro Bowman) and Mike (Michael Wilhoite) showed him something different and I was able to get up underneath (the receiver) like I thought he was going to do.”
Bethea said he credits Manning for enabling him to become a better player, as he went up against him so much that the games became easier than the Colts practices.
“It helped me a lot, especially my first couple years in the league, the different looks that he gives the defense, the knowledge of the game that he has, him making throws in certain coverages where I couldn’t get there,” Bethea said. “Going up against one of the best quarterbacks every day in practice, when game time comes, the game slows down.”
Miller excused: Fullback Bruce Miller is with the team, but he was excused from practice. “It’s a personal thing,” Tomsula said. “He’s good.”
It is not known whether Miller’s absence has anything to do with the offseason incident involving his former fiancée. Miller did not take part in the early portion of 49ers’ offseason program because of a pending legal matter. In June, Miller pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace. As part of his sentence Miller was ordered to attend a 16-week domestic violence counseling course, which is a standard outcome in a case where the defendant has no prior criminal history and there was no physical injury, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.
A source told CSNBayArea.com that the league is continuing to review the matter.
This ‘n’ that: Safety Eric Reid and cornerback Marcus Cromartie recorded interceptions against Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. . . The only interception thrown by a 49ers quarterback came when rookie Dylan Thompson’s pass intended for Xavier Grimble was tipped and intercepted by Taurean Nixon. . . The 49ers continue to look at different combinations at cornerback and along the offensive line. On Wednesday, second-year cornerback Dontae Johnson worked with the first team opposite Tramaine Brock. Shareece Wright, Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker have also seen action with the first-team defense. . . On the offensive line, Marcus Martin played with the first unit at center, while rookie Ian Silberman got a shot at right guard. Said Tomsula, “There were some things we’ve got to get shored up in the protection in the one period. But, overall, I thought it was all right.” . . . Former 49ers receiver Kyle Williams watched practice from the sideline as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn Achilles, an injury he sustained early in Broncos camp. . . Jordan Devey, acquired last week in the trade that sent tight end Asante Cleveland to the New England Patriots, saw action at right guard with the second-team offensive line. . . Linebacker Michael Wilhoite was back with the first unit, lining up alongside NaVorro Bowman. Wilhoite was activated off the non-football injury list on Tuesday after missing the first three weeks of camp with a calf strain. . . . The 49ers’ offense continued to work on their tempo, and it showed. The 49ers routinely finished their script of 20 plays several minutes ahead of the Broncos’ offense on the other field. . . Rookie tight end Blake Bell and Busta Anderson had good days. Bell caught a long touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert that slipped through the hands of a Broncos linebacker. Anderson caught three passes in 11-on-11 drills. . . . The 49ers’ roster stands at 89, and the club does not plan to add another player because Tuesday is the first cutdown date. Rosters must be trimmed to a maximum of 75 players. . . Reggie Bush was the first player up for the 49ers on punt returns. Jarryd Hayne was next, followed by DeAndrew White. . . Hayne had a handful of rushing attempts and caught a couple passes out of the backfield.
Daily transactions: None.
Did not practice: Safety Craig Dahl (back), tight end Vance McDonald (left ankle), linebackers Desmond Bishop (left thumb) and Philip Wheeler (leg strain)
Physically unable to perform: C Daniel Kilgore (left leg)
Non-football injury/illness: WR DeAndre Smelter (knee)
Next practice: The 49ers and Broncos will hold their second and final joint practice at the Broncos’ practice facility on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. (MT).