SANTA CLARA — No lazy passes. That was glaring about Trey Lance’s throws Wednesday.
“That dude can sling the rock, I’ll tell you that,” safety Talanoa Hufanga said.
Not all passes hit their target, nor will they as Lance settles into the starter role through these organized team activities. When he does connect downfield, a definite buzz reverberates across the field.
“He’s zipping it past us a lot, so he’s making it tough on us,” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “It’s good to see him come into his own role as a leader and take control of the team. We’re fired up for Trey and what he can do for us.”
An example of that zip: When Ray-Ray McCloud would cut in from the slot, Lance twice led him into the route, and McCloud almost got caught flat-footed. Moral of that story: do not go idle into Lance’s crosshairs.
“Trey’s been tremendous,” Hufanga said. “Being a rookie with him (last year) was awesome. To get his insight from him as a quarterback and see what they’re looking for, and what he can do on the field, it’s outstanding.
“You love to go against that competition each and every day,” Hufanga added. “We’re excited to have him.”
From Ryans’ defensive perspective, he praised Lance’s “great job” in taking command of Kyle Shanahan’s multi-layered offense, which he’s doing in these practices without Deebo Samuel (hasn’t reported), Elijah Mitchell (rehabilitating knee injury) and any of last year’s starting offensive linemen.
Wednesday’s best throw was a 20-yard completion down the left side to Brandon Aiyuk, who had a step on cornerback Ambry Thomas and deftly caught the on-target pass before safety Jimmie Ward arrived.
On Lance’s first throw, Ward arrived on time (perhaps early) to jump over tight end Tyler Kroft’s back and break up the pass. The unofficial stats: Lance was 6-of-10 in 11-on-11 action, 3-of-4 in 7-on-7 drills, with the completion to Aiyuk coming in that latter category.
FANTASY FOOTBALL FALLOUT
Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. got a kick out of hearing — from kicker Robbie Gould — that he was, in a way, at the center of the fantasy football dispute heard ’round the fantasy world this past week. It resulted in San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson getting slapped by Reds outfield Tommy Pham before last Friday’s game.
“That was crazy, man,” Wilson said. “I’m just honored to be in the conversation. Shout out to Joc for having me on the team, and taking one for the team.”
Pederson explained that Friday’s incident stemmed from his use of roster rules for injured players, and, in this case, Wilson last October. “I really don’t get too much into it. I just know all we do on the field helps them win,” Wilson said. “So I try to do my part and I let them do theirs.”
Wilson, for those keeping track, caught both passes Lance threw his way Wednesday.
RYANS’ ENCORE ACT
Four months ago, Ryans declined a second interview to become the Minnesota Vikings’ coach, a job that went to Kevin O’Connell. “For me and my family and everybody involved, everything has to be the right fit,” Ryans said. “I want another chance, another season to grow and develop more and become a better coach and leader.”
Ryans, after debuting as a defensive coordinator last season, says he’s more comfortable in his role but is “still pushing the envelope” to improve both himself and his players.
“When I do become a head coach, I want it to be the right opportunity, and not just be in it to say, ‘Oh, I’m a head coach.’ If I do it, I want to be very successful at it and do it for a long time,” Ryans added. “It’s not, for me, about jumping at the first opportunity. Whatever opportunities we get presented in life, you want it to be the best for you where you can see longevity and make a lasting impression and impacting lives beyond just me.”
MORE ABSENT SLIPS
None of the 49ers’ top three draft picks participated in the voluntary practice, including defensive end Drake Jackson, running back Ty Davis-Price and wide receiver Danny Gray. Both Jackson and Gray wore compression sleeves on a leg; Davis-Price was not seen at practice.
Still absent are Samuel, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, left tackle Trent Williams, center Alex Mack and defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Samuel attended the Warriors’ win Thursday night that clinched a NBA Finals berth, and he declined comment afterward. After close-of-office Wednesday, the 49ers can make roster moves that defer salary cap hits, so it could trigger news on Mack and Ford, who could both be headed toward retirement.
Rehabilitating on the side were running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (knee, shoulder). Tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner, cornerback Jason Verrett and offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Daniel Brunskill did not practice but watched it. Others who were not seen: defensive linemen Javon Kinlaw and Jordan Willis, and linebackers Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Curtis Robinson.
BANKS ‘QUICKER, MORE ATHLETIC’
Aaron Banks added muscle, cut down his body fat and is more prepared to become a starter on the offensive line, presumably at left guard in place of Laken Tomlinson (New York Jets). “I’ve kind of transformed my body,” said Banks, a second-round pick last year who played just five offensive snaps. “I’m quicker and more athletic than last year.”
A preseason shoulder injury hindered Banks’ start of his rookie development. He caught on by midseason but the 49ers continued forth with Daniel Brunskill at right guard, where Banks served as his understudy of him.
Arik Armstead is one of the few entrenched starters who’s practicing. His leadership of him has carried over off the field, and Armstead was to receive the Dwight Clark Award at Wednesday night’s benefit for the 49ers’ Golden Heart Fund.
“Arik is a tremendous leader and I’m very thankful and appreciative to coach him,” Ryans said. “All he does in the community, I like to highlight that, because that’s what a pro is supposed to look like. He’s done in the right way. He’s affected a lot of people, a lot of young kids back in Sacramento, his community of him. ” Armstead was the 49ers’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award the past two seasons.
The 49ers might move up their mandatory minicamp to next week. It was regularly scheduled for June 13-15, which is when they could instead use for their final week of OTAs.