Sports

49ers trying mature approach

SANTA CLARA -- A year ago in training camp, the San Francisco 49ers were bubbling with braggadocio and itching for a fight.

Tight end Vernon Davis seemed unstoppable and would tell his defensive teammates exactly that at the close of every play. Brawls, usually involving Davis, were plentiful. Chatter was commonplace. The upstart 49ers felt they were ready to turn a corner, and they would do so with loud talk and a noticeable swagger.

This summer the tone -- well, it's toned down.

Despite nine consecutive days of practicing against the same faces, there's been one fight. Davis came close to sparring with Justin Smith on the third day of training camp when Smith gave tight end Delanie Walker a hard shove to the ground. But Davis held back and came away looking more like a concerned teammate than the short-fused prodigy he appeared to be last season.

Davis said part of his new, calmer demeanor stems from respect for his teammates. Another part is that Mike Martz's system is so challenging that offensive players simply have no time to chirp at their opponents.

"The coaches demand a lot of production out of us," Davis said. "This offense is a lot to handle. It's not just that there are a lot of plays. It's about precision, being precise."

After a humbling 5-11 season last year, even the team mantra has become more measured.

When he first arrived, Mike Nolan hung a "Win the West" banner outside the practice facility locker room. The banner had the helmets of the 49ers' three NFC West opponents with red X's slashed through them.

That banner has come down this year, and the "Win the West" slogan has been replaced with the more mundane "one at a time." Nolan said the short-view method is designed to create an "exactness and urgency" that may have been absent in previous seasons.

"Whether that be one practice, one rep or one day, that creates a sense of urgency to do things now," Nolan said in the spring. "Things don't take care of themselves."

Players appear to have bought into the more mature approach.

A year ago, Frank Gore set a goal of 2,000 rushing yards for himself and even put Eric Dickerson and his single-season rushing record on notice. Gore had a solid year but fell 1,000 yards short of Dickerson.

This year, there are no bold predictions.

"I don't want to talk numbers, nothing," Gore said. "I'm just going to go out there, try to stay healthy, try to play hard and just give it all I have, you know? ... Like coach said, I'll take it one week at a time, one game at a time."

Davis' bravado, however, hasn't been entirely subdued.

Last summer, he said his goal was to finish with 1,000 receiving yards. He wound up with 509, but said 1,000 remains the number he's shooting for this season.

"That will always be my goal."

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