49ers’ Battle has no business missing any OTAs

By Jeff Dickinson  |   Friday, June 06, 2008  |  Comments( 9 )

San Francisco 49ers
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Although the 2008 NFL season is still almost four months away from starting, players and coaches of the San Francisco 49ers gathered this past Monday for the first day of organized team activities.

While these activities (or practices, as they might be called in an apolitically correct world) are voluntary, you had better believe that the players who are participating are being noticed. With a head coach in Mike Nolan who is on the hot seat to win this year or else, and a new offensive coordinator in Mike Martz who is implementing a new offense, there is a lot riding on player performances.

As these frolicsome OTAs reached their third day, there was one 49er who was noticeably absent – wide receiver Arnaz Battle. Why was Battle not participating in the OTAs? No one has really said. There haven’t been any explanations, just a news brief that said Nolan had finally heard from Battle and that he will be there next week.

There is really too much being made about Battle’s absence from San Francisco’s OTAs. After all, he did lead the team with 600 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season.

Battle was San Francisco’s No. 1 receiver last season. When the Patriots hold their OTAs, do you think Randy Moss will show up on the first day? Probably not. How about Reggie Wayne with the Colts, or Braylon Edwards with the Browns? It isn’t uncommon for a team’s stars to stroll into voluntary workouts when they feel like it.

The problem lies in the fact that Battle is a far cry from Moss, Wayne, Edwards, or any of the other leading receivers in the NFL. Battle had 50 catches for the 49ers last season. While he was the team’s leading wideout in that category, he didn’t even have as many catches as running back Frank Gore (53) or tight end Vernon Davis (52).

Making Battle’s absence from practice even more glaring is the fact that he ranked 62nd in the NFL last season among wide receivers in total catches. Additionally, Battle was ranked 66th in the league among wide receivers in total yards. Those aren’t exactly the kind of numbers that a No. 1 receiver should be posting for his team, especially not if he’s going to miss the first workouts of the spring.

In fact, there was only one team in the NFL that didn’t have a wide receiver post better numbers last season than Battle – the Miami Dolphins. In case you need reminding, the Dolphins finished the season with a 1-15 record.

Delving into Battle’s numbers over the past three seasons prior to 2007 don’t help his cause. In 2006, Battle caught 59 balls for 686 yards, but only three touchdowns. In 2005, he had 32 catches for 363 yards and three scores. In 2004, he finished with eight catches for 143 yards and no touchdowns.

When Battle catches 23 touchdown passes like Moss did for New England last season, then he can skip a practice or two. When he totals 1,510 yards in catches like Wayne did with the Colts, he will be forgiven for being absent from an OTA or two. But when Battle continues to post mediocre numbers as San Francisco’s No. 1 receiver, he had better get to practice. His future might depend on it.
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About Jeff Dickinson

I have been writing and editing professionally for 18 years. I spent the first three years of my career as a sportswriter for a daily newspaper in Alabama and got to cover sports and get paid for it! It was great until I got married and then it wasn't too much fun being away from my wife every...
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