SANTA CLARA –- Linebacker Nick Moody continued to state his case as a possible regular-season starter alongside NaVorro Bowman with a strong practice on Wednesday night at Levi’s Stadium.
In a practice in which the offensive line did a better job of handling its business against the 49ers’ front seven, it was still a defender who made the top play of the night in front of nearly 15,000 season-ticket holders.
During an 11-on-11 session in the red zone, Moody, who played safety at Florida State, took a perfect angle to cut in front of wide receiver Torrey Smith at the goal line and intercept Colin Kaepernick's pass.
Moody is getting first-team reps with Michael Wilhoite, a 16-game starter last season, sidelined with a leg strain. Veteran inside linebacker Philip Wheeler was not available to practice because of a leg strain, too. Bowman practiced with the first unit, and Moody saw action alongside Shayne Skov with the second-team defense.
After that red-zone period, the 49ers dialed back practice to walk-through speed. The field at Levi’s Stadium was particularly torn up, but a 49ers official said it was coach Jim Tomsula’s plan all along to convert the final period of team work into walk-through speed.
“It was predetermined once Wheeler wasn’t going to practice because they had low numbers at middle linebacker and because (Bowman) was in shoulder pads for the first time in a year and a half, they decided to dial it back and go with a teaching pace for the last period,” 49ers vice president of communications Bob Lange said.
Injury report: Running back Mike Davis and safety Antoine Bethea got up slowly after going down in practice. Both players were fine, the team reported. Davis slipped while making a cut. Bethea got his foot stepped on during a red-zone drills, the team said. Rookie defensive lineman Arik Armstead took a hit to the thigh and had “dead leg.”
This ‘n’ that: A source said veteran cornerback Chris Cook sat out practice Tuesday because his knee was bothering. The 49ers ultimately felt other young corners could do what he does, so the decision was made to release him. . . . Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett went to the locker room after individual and group work because the practice was designed solely for the base offense and defense. . . The 49ers had an Oklahoma-style drill involving a quick pass to a wide receiver, while another wideout blocked a defensive back. Quinton Patton looked good as a blocker, but he met his match when he tried to block safety Eric Reid. . . . Newly signed wideout Nigel King managed to tie up Reid in the drill. . . Tight end Garrett Celek had a good showing with two deep receptions within a three-play period, including a deep seam route against Bethea. McDonald later caught a pass from Blaine Gabbert. . . Kaepernick showed good touch on a pass to Vance McDonald on a drag route on the second play of teamwork. . . During a 7-on-7 drill in the red zone, Kaepernick opened with a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. He then made a nice back-shoulder pass to Carlos Hyde, who caught a touchdown pass against tight coverage from Moody. . . Skov had another good day, as he got into the backfield at the snap and could have tackled quarterback Dylan Thompson before he had a chance to hand off to Mike Davis. Later, Skov broke up a Gabbert pass intended for DeAndrew White. . . Craig Dahl broke up a Kaepernick pass intended for Blake Bell in the end zone. . . Tight end Derek Carrier made two nice leaping catches on Gabbert passes. . . Tight end Asante caught a deep corner route from Thompson. . . Cornerback Kenneth Acker broke up a Gabbert pass for Carrier. . . Aldon Smith picked up a sack off the right end as Mike Davis was slow to get there in blitz pickup. . . Trent Brown saw some action at left tackle with the first-team offense when starter Joe Staley got a rest. . . Rookie safety Jaquiski Tartt missed his second day of practice with a bruised toe, the team said.
Daily transactions: The 49ers released cornerback Chris Cook and signed rookie free-agent wide receiver Nigel King.
Returned to practice: LB NaVorro Bowman, WR Jerome Simpson
Did not practice: S Jaquiski Tartt, WR Bruce Ellington, RB Reggie Bush, OLB Aaron Lynch, RB Kendall Hunter, DB Jimmie Ward, WR Issac Blakeney LB Philip Wheeler, DL Darnell Dockett, OL Ben Gottschalk
Physically unable to perform: C Daniel Kilgore (left leg)
Non-football injury/illness: LB Michael Wilhoite (leg), WR DeAndre Smelter (knee), LB Nick Bellore (illness)
Next practice: The 49ers have a day off on Thursday before returning to practice on Friday at 4:15 p.m. The practice is closed to the general public