SANTA CLARA — Players who hear Mike Singletary's fiery speeches swear that the man can make the earth move.
In this case, he did.
Singletary ordered that a hill be made adjacent to the 49ers practice fields. What had been a gentle slope is now padded with 2,500 tons of dirt. It takes a run of about 45 feet to get to the top — as the 49ers players will soon discover first-hand.
What does Singletary call his creation?
"Pain," he said Saturday before the second and final day of the 49ers' minicamp.
Mt. Pain isn't quite ready for climbers yet, but the plan is to use it for conditioning drills. Singletary used to run hills himself during his playing days, as did Hall-of-Fame teammate Walter Payton.
The 49ers' Jerry Rice was famous for his sprint work in the hills of San Carlos.
Singletary said that athletes who trained that way "were a cut above some of the other competition around the league and had a long playing career."
"It's something you can't get in the weight room. Something you can't really get on the track," he said. "It builds something that's kind of a mystery."
The hill is a fitting symbol for a minicamp dominated by conditioning work. On Friday, players ran through a training circuit that included sprints, relays and other sweat-inducing competitions.
"'Junction Boys' stuff," linebacker Takeo Spikes called it, referring to Bear Bryant's famously demanding Texas summer camps.
"It'll bring out the man in you," tight end Vernon Davis said.
Singletary was pleased that the players who fared best in the drills also happen to be team leaders, citing Davis, Frank Gore, Shaun Hill and Alex Smith.
Near the end of Friday's session, for example, Singletary considered ending the drills early. But "Vernon was the first one to say, 'No, we're going to finish this,' and everybody else chimed in," Singletary said. "I think that says a lot about our team."
Keep it quiet
In a policy change, Singletary is prohibiting his assistant coaches from talking to the media — at least temporarily. That gag order includes new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, who would ordinarily be a man in demand at his first minicamp.
"Jimmy Raye and his staff have a lot of work to do to get the guys caught up. I don't want them thinking about trying to explain what the offense is and trying to give a rhyme or reason for this or that," Singletary said. "Let's get this show on the road. We got to go to work and get it done."
Singletary said he would lift the ban "at an appropriate time" and make Raye and others available on a limited basis.
A year ago, Mike Martz addressed reporters once every two weeks — the minimum media access by NFL coordinators.
Keep it simple
Several players traced the 49ers' defensive improvement late last season to settling on a 3-4 scheme. Under Mike Nolan, the 49ers alternated between a 4-3 and a 3-4.
Simplifying things allowed the 49ers to play faster and smarter. Over the final seven games, the 49ers allowed only 122 points — seventh best n the NFL during that span.
"(We're) sticking purely to a 3-4, and not necessarily having to throw in a bunch of trick-'em stuff," defensive end Justin Smith said.
Smith added that he expects the 49ers be a top 10 defense with a shot at being top five.
Morgan: Don't go, Bruce
Receiver Josh Morgan is still rehabilitating from the groin injury that hampered much of his rookie season.
In the meantime, he hopes Isaac Bruce returns rather than retiring. Morgan called Bruce "a second father" because of all the advice he gave him during his first season in the NFL.
Bruce is considering bowing out after 15 seasons. "I understand it," Morgan said, "but I'm just being greedy."
Morgan had high praise for former Virginia Tech teammate Jimmy Williams, who was an epic disappointment after being drafted by the Falcons. The 49ers signed Williams after Atlanta released him and hope that he can compete for a safety spot.
Morgan recalled Williams as a hard-hitting defensive back with 4.37 speed. "I always tell people that Jimmy Williams was the best corner I ever played against," Morgan said.
Singletary said the 49ers' most significant injury belongs to defensive lineman Ray McDonald who had off-season knee surgery. Singletary said the 49ers would be "very gentle" with McDonald, at least until the start of training camp.
— Daniel Brown, MediaNews staff