DENVER – The 49ers’ starters received the equivalent of two full games worth of snaps on Wednesday and Thursday in joint practices with the Denver Broncos.
But that does not mean the first unit has gotten in all of its work for the week, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. The 49ers play the Denver Broncos on Saturday night in the third exhibition game for both teams. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the starters are expected to see extended playing time.
“Our guys will play a little more this week than they have in the last couple of games,” Tomsula said.
The game could feature the exhibition debuts of running backs Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter. Bush, 30, has practiced without any restrictions for the past three weeks, but Tomsula opted to sit him out of games -- presumably because he wanted to take no chances with the nine-year veteran.
Hunter is returning from a season-ending torn ACL that he sustained in training camp last summer. He has also been practicing in pads, but the 49ers are being cautious with him, too.
When asked if Bush and Hunter would play Saturday, Tomsula answered, “I’m expecting that. But I’m going to reserve the right. Kendall, out there the last two days, has been really nice. And Reggie, obviously, I’ve got Reggie on a different deal.”
Bush was the 49ers’ first player back deep when the team worked on punt returns during practice on Wednesday. Tomsula said Bush might see action on returns against the Broncos, along with Jarryd Hayne and DeAndrew White.
---The two days of practices afforded 49ers left tackle Joe Staley the opportunity to go up against Broncos pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware. Staley has been selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls. Ware has been named to the Pro Bowl team in eight of his 10 NFL seasons.
Between period of practice, Staley and Ware were often seen talking to each other as they moved from one drill to the next. The teams do not play each other in the regular season, and Staley said he and Ware were talking shop.
“What he’s seeing and what I’m trying to do,” he said. “He does a good job of getting upfield and getting the tackle to turn his shoulders and then doing his move off that. So that’s one of the things I was working on.”
---Linebacker Michael Wilhoite returned to practice this week after missing the first three weeks of camp with a calf strain. Wilhoite said there was some rust when it came to getting all of the pieces of his game to work together on the practice field against the Broncos.
“Mentally, I’m good, but mentally matching it with the physical part is the tough part,” Wilhoite said. “Putting my eyes and feet in the right place. My eyes are seeing not as much as I want or I’m seeing too much and my feet aren’t moving with them. My body’s not moving with the way I’m seeing things. Your eyes, feet and body have to work together and that comes with reps and time.”
Wilhoite, a 16-game starter last season, immediately stepped back into action with the 49ers’ first-team defense. He is expected to start alongside NaVorro Bowman in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme.
---Offensive lineman Jordan Devey reported to the 49ers last week with a new Super Bowl ring and an urgency to learn his new team’s scheme. The urgency was obvious. However, he left the Super Bowl ring at home.
Devey started four games for the New England Patriots last season. He remained on the 53-man roster but was inactive in the postseason on the Patriots’ march to a Super Bowl title. Last week, he landed with the 49ers, who acquired him in a trade for tight end Asante Cleveland.
“Obviously, I loved my time in New England and it was a great experience for me,” Devey said. “There’s nothing bad I can say about my experience there. It’s just a new opportunity, and an opportunity to grow and develop.”
Devey played 23 snaps at right guard in the 49ers’ exhibition game just five days later. He has already seen time at right guard, left guard and center during practices with his new club. He is expected to see extensive time Saturday night as he fights for a roster spot.
“Wherever they tell me to go, just be ready and be able to play my best regardless of what position it is,” Devey said. “I feel like they have a good scheme going and I’ve been able to learn. And I have a lot more learning to do, and that’s what I’m trying to do now, to fully understand it and be able to go out and play without thinking about it. I want it to become second nature to me. I’m working on that right now.”
Center and right guard remain unresolved as the 49ers' head into the third exhibition game. Marcus Martin started the first two exhibition games at right guard. This week, he worked at center with the first-team offense. Joe Looney was moved this week from first-team at center to second team. Rookie Ian Silberman practiced with the first team at right guard. With a strong showing Saturday, Devey could work his way into the conversation, too.