SANTA CLARA -– The 49ers’ first practice on Saturday night was all about that base.
The 49ers worked solely on their base packages on both offense and defense. So that prompted 49ers coach Jim Tomsula to give veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett the night off.
Dockett has been medically cleared with no restrictions upon returning from a torn ACL that he sustained in training camp last summer with the Arizona Cardinals. But Tomsula decided he did not want Dockett taking part in the 49ers’ base defense because of the steady diet of double-teams he would face.
“We’re not going to have him in there doing that,” Tomsula said. “I don’t want him in there. . . He’ll be doing more of the nickel stuff, the sub stuff. You’ll see that stuff.”
The 49ers’ practice on Sunday evening at Levi’s Stadium will likely include more work with the team’s nickel package that includes four linemen. The 49ers appear to envision Dockett’s primary role as an inside pass rusher in nickel situations.
“I think there’s great value in Darnell in that role,” Tomsula said. “But I also think, Darnell can play. He’s got 11 years. We’ve all seen him sit on double-teams and dominate on first and second down. He can do them all.”
---Justin Smith had some nice words about 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams upon his retirement this offseason. Said Smith, “I think a guy that’s not talked about a lot because he got injured is Ian Williams. I think he’s one of the best nose guards in the league, if his leg’s healthy.”
Williams said he was flattered to hear Smith speaking about him.
“It’s amazing,” Williams said. “To have Justin Smith say those types of words about you. I think about my 10-year-old self, looking up to guys who were in the NFL at the time. This is Justin Smith talking about me like this. It’s great that he has that confidence in me. And that puts more confidence in myself to be able to go out there and play to the best of my abilities.”
Williams, who is lining up with the first team, said he is rounding into shape after finishing last season on injured reserve with a fractured leg.
---Fourth-round draft pick Blake Bell finds himself in a crowded room of tight ends in 49ers’ camp. He said he has turned to veteran Vernon Davis to help him in his transition to the NFL after switching from quarterback to tight end while at Oklahoma.
“He’s helped a lot,” Bell said. “He’s definitely a guy you can go to and ask questions. He’s not going to give you wrong answers or lead you in the wrong direction. I’ve asked him a lot questions on routes or he’ll come up to me and say, do this or try to tweak that, and I do it. And (it’s) helped me a lot.”
Bell got off to a solid start in the 49ers’ first practice of training camp on Saturday night. With eight tight ends on the 49ers’ 90-man roster, Bell said he has tried to learn from each of the tight ends when they get their chances.
“When you have eight tight ends, everyone is getting a limited amount of reps, so that’s where when you’re on the sideline or you’re in the back and you get the mental reps, too,” Bell said. “I think mental reps are almost as good as being out there and doing it. You can see how they did it, so you can do it different or the same.”
---Wide receiver DeAndrew White was clearly overshadowed by his Alabama teammate Amari Cooper during his college. White caught 94 passes for 1,294 yards and 12 touchdowns in his 42-game college career. White was not drafted, and the 49ers signed him as a free agent.
“Yes, is the easy answer,” Tomsula said when asked if he was surprised White was not drafted. “But we always thought DeAndrew White was extremely talented. We’re happy he went where he went. We’re happy he is where he is.”
---Undrafted wide receiver Issac Blakeney sustained a slight leg strain in practice Saturday night and will be held out of practice on Sunday, Tomsula said.