SANTA CLARA -– When the 49ers announced the decision to release star linebacker Aldon Smith on Friday, it was coach Jim Tomsula who spoke for the organization.
CEO Jed York was in Canton, Ohio, where former 49ers star Charles Haley will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. General manager Trent Baalke was in Santa Clara but did not attend the press conference.
Two members of the 49ers organization wondered in private comments to CSNBayArea.com why Baalke did not make an appearance. Tomsula said on Saturday he spoke for the organization because it’s his job and it is more comfortable for him to work solo in those settings. (Update: Baalke later told CSNBayArea.com that he spent hours with Smith after the release and was with him at the time of Tomsula's press conference.)
“I wanted to be alone,” Tomsula said. “First of all, because I’m better that way. I’m just more comfortable, to be honest with you. In terms of anything else, that’s my job. That’s not anybody else’s job. That’s my job.
“It’s been well-documented. I’m not real good on these podiums looking down on people. That’s just not me. I’m not good with a predetermined speech.”
When asked to clarify if he was referring to being better in those situations than Baalke, Tomsula, speaking in the first person, said he was talking only about himself, “No, no, no. (I’m) completely talking about Jimbo.”
Tomsula, by all accounts, handled the sensitive nature of the Smith's release with aplomb. Smith has battled substance-abuse throughout his time in the NFL. Tomsula even encouraged others with problems to seek professional help.
"I understand where this goes in the news," Tomsula said on Friday. "What I’d like to say, is if one person out there reads this and you’re struggling, get help. Go get it. You’re worth it. You’re worth it. There’s value in every human being. Get the help. You don’t have to walk alone. Find it. It’s there."
---After a rough day at practice on Tuesday, the 49ers’ offensive line has shown steady improvement as the unit has continued to get more familiar working together.
”I think what people don’t understand is, this is practice,” guard/center Marcus Martin said. “This is training camp. The goal in practice is to learn from your mistakes. Every day is not going to be a perfect day. The days aren’t perfect, you come in and watch the tape and re-evaluate and you try to figure out the things you try to do better as a unit and as an individual. And I think that’s what we did.”
---The loss of Aldon Smith is a big blow to the 49ers, obviously. New wide receiver Torrey Smith believes the team is losing a player whose talent places him on the same level as Ray Lewis or Ed Reed.
“Aldon’s one of the best football players I’ve ever been around,” Torrey Smith said. “I’ve been around some Hall of Famers in Baltimore. His talent, no one can deny that. I hope he gets everything together and maybe he gets another chance.”
---Tomsula complimented the three veteran starters who figure into the 49ers’ plans on the offensive line. Tomsula said he spoke in the staff meeting room Friday night about watching left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Alex Boone line up alongside each other.
“Watching the spacing, watching the hips down, that’s coming along really nice,” Tomsula said.
Veteran free-agent pickup Erik Pears has impressed Tomsula, too. The 49ers signed Pears, who started 55 games with the Buffalo Bills since 2011, to a two-year, $4.7 million contract.
“I’m big Pears guy,” Tomsula said. “He’s one of those tough-nut Colorado dudes. He either got off a horse or climbed out of a mine. . . He’s got his wife and four kids and that’s about it. He’s got that and football. So he’s my type of guy.”
Tomsula said his knowledge of Pears dates back to NFL Europe almost a decade ago. Pears' team, the Cologne Centurions, twice played against Tomsula's NFL Europe team, the Rhein Fire. Pears, 33, is having a strong camp, Tomsula said.
“He’s moving better than I’ve seen him move. He’s strong,” Tomsula said. “Our offseason program here and the way he dedicated himself to it is showing up on the field.”
---Tomsula said it was his idea to get rookie Ian Silberman, a sixth-round draft pick, into the action at center during practice on Friday. Silberman struggled mightily with the center-quarterback exchange. But Tomsula said it’s “what you’d expect.”
He said, “We had problems with snaps, and seven of the nine problems, the nose guard was on his snap hand. That’s the difference between playing guard and center.”
---Marcus Martin had never stepped on the practice field with three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman until training camp opened last week. In an early drill in that first practice, Bowman unleashed a spin move on his surgically repaired left knee, and Martin whiffed in his block attempt.
“I didn’t know he had a spin move,” Martin said. “Bow is a phenomenal player. He’s going to dominate like he always has. And from the ACL thing he looks 100 percent out there. He’s rolling right now.”
---Speedster Torrey Smith has gotten off to a solid start to training camp. It’s common to see Smith being stretched by one of the team’s athletic trainers when he’s not in on the action. Smith said he has learned that the best measures are preventative.
“It’s a part of camp, too,” he said. “You’re tighter than normal, getting out there and running around. But I learned to take care of my body. If you’re not healthy, you’re not practicing and you can’t get better and you can’t play.”
Smith said he learned from Anquan Boldin, his teammate for two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith underwent surgery after his rookie season to repair a hernia.
“I’ve learned to take care of my body,” he said. Smith said he would go straight from an interview into the training room.
“It’s more about pre-hab than waiting until something happens,” Smith said.