SANTA CLARA -- Marlon Moore had made just 12 catches in three NFL seasons before joining the 49ers as a free agent this offseason. But when the defending NFC champions played their exhibition opener, there was the former Miami Dolphins special teamer lined up with Anquan Boldin as one of two starting wide receivers.
The 49ers are thin at receiver thanks to Michael Crabtree's torn Achilles tendon, and there are a lot of question marks after Boldin. So when Kyle Williams was ruled out for Thursday's exhibition opener against Denver, it was Moore who got the opportunity to run with the starting 11.
He played eight snaps and had one catch of a Colin Kaepernick pass for 12 yards.
The starting assignment was emblematic of a good training camp, as Moore has showed ability as a deep threat for an offense that desperately needs one. He made a nice adjustment to catch an underthrown deep pass from Kaepernick in Monday's practice.
"Speed guy. He's a deep threat for this team," rookie safety Eric Reid said. "He's reliable. We can send him downfield and throw him the ball if we need to."
Starting on offense was strange for Moore. His special teams play is what kept him on the roster during his first three NFL seasons with Miami. But by earning the start, he was kept off special teams for the 49ers.
"I like to play special teams," Moore said. "I love just playing football period. Not being able to be in and contribute during that time of the game, it kind of hurt me. But at the same time, maybe they're recognizing something about me."
Williams is expected back this week from a strained hamstring and is the listed starter for Friday's game at Kansas City. By not starting, Moore might be in line for more snaps.
For a player who wasn't initially considered among the guys fighting to fill Crabtree's void, it's all about taking advantage of the opportunity.
"I just wanted to go out there and play as hard as possible and make all the plays I possibly could and do the best that I could," Moore said. "Eventually somebody will take notice."
Moore signed with the 49ers when the Dolphins chose not to tender him a contract as a restricted free agent. The Sacramento native and Fresno State product wanted to be closer to home and have a chance to play for a winning team.
Harbaugh ended up on the ground while trying to separate the combatants. Thomas was pulled out of the scrum, and Spillman, whose sweatpants were ripped, was ordered off the practice field. He did not return to practice.
It was unclear what initiated the fight. It was a noncontact practice in which the players were wearing helmets and no pads.
During a two-minute drill, he hauled in a deep sideline pass from Kaepernick, although it was borderline whether Jenkins was in bounds. He also made a nice catch over the middle on a Kaepernick pass in which he fought off tight coverage from rookie cornerback Darryl Morris.
Williams also had a nice day. He caught four passes, including a 40-yard-plus completion from B.J. Daniels during scout team work. Austin Collie also caught four passes.
"We've got a pretty good quarterback here that I go against on a daily basis," Reid said of Kaepernick. "I'm trying to use that every day to get better."
Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.