Football / Sports

Seeking new contracts, Davis and Boone miss Niners workout

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A makeshift street sign reads "Forty Niner Way" on the path from the locker room to the practice field. Tight end Vernon Davis and right guard Alex Boone did not make that walk Tuesday.

Davis and Boone, as expected, boycotted the start of the 49ers' mandatory minicamp while seeking new contracts.

"(It's) not the decision that I envisioned being the 49er way," said coach Jim Harbaugh, noting he did "not beat around the bush" to express his displeasure.

As Davis and Boone continued their offseason-long holdouts, surprisingly absent Tuesday was cornerback Eric Wright, who retired only three months after re-signing with the 49ers.

Davis and Boone have two seasons left on their respective contracts, and while their starting spots are seemingly secure, they risk getting fined up to $70,000 each for skipping this week's mandatory sessions.

That duo missed a lackluster, 21/2-hour practice that included several dropped passes, including two by Davis' understudy, second-year tight end Vance McDonald. Garrett Celek and rookie Asante Cleveland also saw increased action, especially once Derek Carrier left with an apparent hamstring strain.

Highlights were scarce from what offensive coordinator Greg Roman dubbed a "different offense" than last year's 24th-ranked unit (323.8 yards per game) and third-worst passing attack (186.2 ypg).

"After three years here, it was kind of a time-to-clean-out-the-garage type of thing," Roman said before practice. "We went through everything we've done and really stripped it back down to its most element, basic parts and start over at square one."

With Colin Kaepernick entering his second full season as the starting quarterback, the 49ers are banking on an improved passing attack with the addition of wideouts Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and rookie Bruce Ellington.

"We have different pieces, different components," Kaepernick said. "You're always trying to work on different things."

"It's fair to make the statement it's a different offense," Roman added.

Johnson, however, did not take part in team drills, having strained a hamstring earlier this month. Wideout Michael Crabtree and running back Frank Gore precautionary sat out team drills, as did defensive tackle Justin Smith and cornerback Chris Culliver.

Without Boone, Joe Looney and Adam Snyder continued to take turns as the first-string right guard. Looney, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, drew pre-practice praise from Roman, who recalled how Looney graded "extremely high" in last season's cameo against the St. Louis Rams.

Boone has started every game the past two seasons at right guard. "Alex is a person we value on the line; he's a mean guy, and that helps," said center Daniel Kilgore, who's poised to become a first-time starter if he can hold off rookie Marcus Martin.

--Wright, in a statement, cited his diminished passion for football and increased desire for family time as to why he's retiring. "Playing was the fulfillment of a childhood dream, but as I prepared for the coming season, I realized that I no longer had the same passion I once had for the game," said Wright, a San Francisco native who came to the 49ers last season and re-signed for the veteran minimum of $855,000 this season.

Wright played sparingly the second half of last season, with his only interception coming at the end of a December home win against Seattle. He began his career with the Cleveland Browns (2007-2010) before moving on to the Detroit Lions (2011), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012) and 49ers (2013).

Wright leaves behind a crowded and relatively raw cornerback unit. Tramaine Brock and Chris Cook typically have taken the first-string snaps. Chris Culliver is also a candidate to start once he's fully cleared to return from last summer's knee injury. Other options on the depth chart are Perrish Cox, Darryl Morris and draft picks Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker.

--The No. 2 quarterback job remains an open competition and has not been assigned yet to Blaine Gabbert, although Harbaugh praised him: "From my eye, he looks good."

--Right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) watched practice, and Harbaugh is "very hopeful" to see him back by the start of training camp.

--Running back Carlos Hyde and Ellington made some nice catches, as did Anquan Boldin to end a red-zone drill.

--Gore is "still at the top of his game" entering his 10th season, Harbaugh said, adding: "He has three great years left in him. That's his mindset as well." Gore, the 49ers' all-time rushing leader, is entering the final season of his contract.

--Linebacker Aaron Lynch (hamstring) did not practice, nor did wide receiver Jon Baldwin (undisclosed), defensive tackle Ian Williams (foot), Culliver (knee) and Ward (foot).

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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