SANTA CLARA -- Justin Smith looked like good ol' Justin Smith again as he raced toward Colin Kaepernick in the 49ers' first practice of training camp.

Gone was the cumbersome arm brace Smith required late last season for a partially torn triceps, an injury that hindered not only him but also the defense's worth.

Don't worry, Smith pulled up before hitting Kaepernick in Thursday's debut practice. But the sight of Smith practicing again bodes well for this season's prospects.

"We don't have a lot more time, so I'm ready to go, and it feels great," the defensive lineman said in declaring his left arm 100 percent recovered from offseason surgery.

Lining up next to Smith with Thursday's first-team defense was outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who also looks recovered from offseason surgery, on a torn labrum.

Now the 49ers just need to keep that Smith tandem at full strength heading into their NFC title defense that opens Sept. 8 against the Green Bay Packers.

"Some years you're going to have more injuries, some years you're going to have less injuries," Justin Smith said. "It's football. People are jumping into each other. That kind of stuff is going to happen, but I hope it doesn't happen this year."

Smith started 185 consecutive games before sustaining his arm injury during a Dec. 16 win at New England. After missing the next two games, he returned for the playoffs, but with less impact than his usual All-Pro form.


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To make sure the defense doesn't have a repeat of its postseason struggles, Smith said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wants his unit to "get back to basics" to clean things up this camp.

Smith conceded he'll miss lining up next to Isaac Sopoaga, who's now on the Eagles, but that the 49ers have capable replacements in Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams.

  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree officially was placed on the active/physically-unable-to-perfom list for an Achilles injury that could sideline him into at least November. He watched the first half of practice from afar, sitting in the outdoor weight room. He wore a small brace below his right ankle and walked slowly with a slight limp.

  • Wideout Kyle Williams gained medical clearance from the PUP list and looked solid in his first full practice since a Nov. 25 knee injury, in which he sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He attempted to dive for a Kaepernick pass midway through practice, and he also got first crack at fielding punts.

    Rather than angle for Crabtree's old starting spot, Williams defended the depth of the receivers' unit and said he's willing to platoon, if needed. "Losing 15 (Crabtree's number) definitely is going to hurt, but we're going to have to pick up the slack," Williams said. "We have the depth and talent to do it."

  • Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin hooked up on multiple completions, including Kaepernick's first attempts in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills as well as a 40-yard pass.

  • Wideout A.J. Jenkins, last year's first-round draft pick, often lined up with the first-string unit, along with Boldin.

  • Linebacker Patrick Willis made the practice's first interception when he nabbed a Kaepernick pass that bounced off Frank Gore's hands in the flat.

  • Safety Michael Thomas intercepted a Colt McCoy pass.

  • Veteran safety Craig Dahl and nose tackle Williams saw early first-team snaps before being replaced respectively by Eric Reid and Glenn Dorsey.

  • Running back Kendall Hunter, who's on PUP, sprinted with encouraging speed during individual conditioning.

  • Receiver Quinton Patton wore a no-contact jersey for unknown reasons but practiced.

  • The 49ers also activated linebacker Darius Fleming (knee) off the PUP list, while Lamar Divens was placed on the active/non-football-injury list as a result of last month's head injuries from an alleged, late-night attack by teammate Ahmad Brooks.

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.

    49ers Chat Monday

    Talk with Cam Inman about the team's first weekend of training camp action at noon.

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