SANTA CLARA — Joe Nedney recognizes the mild controversy. Coach Mike Nolan's decision to kick a short field goal against the Raiders instead of going for it on fourth-and-two was met by widespread jeers.
Nolan made the case that the special-teams units need work, too — an assertion that drew more snickers than understanding.
But on Sunday, Nedney backed his coach by elaborating on why a few dress rehearsals for the field goal unit shouldn't be taken so lightly.
"I find it very, very important to have some game situations during the preseason,'' the 13-year veteran said.
Here's Friday's setup: Quarterback candidate Alex Smith had the 49ers knocking on the door of the end zone just before halftime. But fullback Zak Keasey was stopped short on a third-and-three running play.
It appeared to be an ideal test for Smith, a quarterback in a tight battle for the starting job.
How would Smith handle the pressure of a fourth-down play?
It remains a mystery: Nolan dispatched Nedney for a 22-yard field goal.
"(The distance) doesn't matter,'' Nedney said. "It's hearing the contact in front of me, feeling the contact in front of me and the adrenaline of being out there in a game. There is no other preparation for that.
"The snap, hold and kick, obviously, we can take care of on the practice field. "... But it's the added element of being in a game situation, the emotional preparation that goes into stepping on to a field during a game."
Nedney has hit on 87.8 percent of his kicks since joining the 49ers in 2005. Only Jeff Wilkins (89.4 from 1995-96) has a better career mark with the team.
J.T. O'Sullivan looked good as the quarterback for the first-team offense in practice. O'Sullivan capped his day by taking the offense 64 yards on seven plays during a two-minute drill.
The unofficial stats from the 11-on-11 drills: O'Sullivan completed 14-of-20 passes. Smith worked with the second team and hit on 17-of-24. Shaun Hill was out of the rotation for a day, but Nolan said it is still a three-man race.
The 49ers placed tackle Damane Duckett (knee) on season-ending injured reserve. The team signed Chris Patrick, who was released by the Lions ... Asked if the 49ers would consider adding a veteran quarterback, Nolan didn't rule anything out. "The door is open to any player that makes us better. That isn't the specific answer to your question, but that's really where it's at,'' Nolan said.
— Daniel Brown,