The start of the San Francisco 49ers’ three-day mandatory minicamp was overshadowed by the players who were absent.
Two-time Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis and right guard Alex Boone skipped Tuesday’s activities. Both starters are seeking raises despite two years left on their contracts.
Cornerback Eric Wright, a seven-year veteran who played in seven games for the 49ers last season, announced his retirement. Wright said in a statement released through the team that he “no longer had the same passion” for the game.
While Wright’s announcement came as a surprise in the locker room, Davis and Boone are far bigger contributors to a 49ers team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said he appreciates players who show up for the voluntary workouts in the offseason but expects everybody in attendance for the mandatory meetings. He said he was disappointed that Davis and Boone are not at the minicamp.
“Not the decision that I envisioned being the 49er way,” Harbaugh said. “Really nothing more to be said about it. The focus will be on what’s going on here.”
Players can be fined nearly $70,000 if they miss all three days of the minicamp, per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. If Davis and Boone continue to hold out, they set the stage for what could be a major distraction leading into training camp next month for a franchise that has avoided such contract disputes the past few seasons under Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.
Neither Davis nor Boone was present during the first eight weeks of the team’s voluntary program. Davis sacrificed a $200,000 bonus and Boone $50,000 for missing the workouts.
And while both are seeking new deals, Davis has been the most vocal about his situation.
“In 2010 I signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed. It was the biggest contract for a tight end in league history. Four years later, and I’m playing at a higher level than I was then, which brings me to why I’m holding out,” Davis wrote in a guest column for MMQB.com on Monday. “It’s all about getting paid what you deserve. It’s not that complicated. I want the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, and I want to be on the field this summer working toward that goal, but I have to worry about my future first.”
“Most of my teammates and many players in the NFL understand that. A few don’t,” Davis continued. “Behind closed doors, they’ll say they’re all about the team and would run through a brick wall for the organization. But when you look closer, they’re doing things to contradict themselves. I can’t listen to anyone but my family and my advisors, because those are the people who are going to be there when football inevitably dumps me.”
Davis, who initially acted coy about skipping the team’s voluntary offseason program, began making his displeasure known shortly before the 49ers announced they had given quarterback Colin Kaepernick a six-year contract extension through the 2020 season that could be worth up to $126 million.
Davis, who is now 30 years old, had 52 catches for 850 yards and accounted for 13 of Kaepernick’s 21 touchdown passes last season.
The tight end has repeatedly talked about marketing his “brand” this offseason after signing a deal with Fantex, which sells shares of Davis’ “stock” to investors. The San Francisco company paid Davis $4 million in return for 10 percent of his future earnings from football, commercial endorsements and other jobs that he may get during the remainder of his life.
The 27-year-old Boone signed a contract extension while he was a backup tackle in November 2011. He has two years remaining on the deal, which will reportedly pay him $2.25 million this season and $1.45 million next season.
Most of their teammates responded in similar fashion when asked about their absences – saying it’s a decision each player has to make on their own.
Second-year safety Eric Reid, whose locker is next to Wright’s, said it was a little surprising when he heard Wright was considering not playing anymore. Wright had been competing for the job vacated by former starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, who both signed with the Oakland Raiders in free agency.
The 49ers are treating minicamp as an opportunity for others to make an impact.
Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek are expected to receive most of the practice repetitions behind Davis at tight end. Joe Looney is competing at the guard spot, while tackle Jonathan Martin is receiving some time at guard. Daniel Kilgore also can play center and guard.
Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Chris Cook, Darryl Morris and rookies Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker are competing at cornerback.
“It’s next man up,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “That’s how it goes.”
Updated June 17, 2014