SANTA CLARA -- General manager Trent Baalke didn't drop any bombshells in a 45-minute, impromptu news conference with reporters, but he did cover a slew of 49ers topics. Here's a quick breakdown of them: On guard Alex Boone's holdout: Baalke would not discuss the status of any potential negotiations, stating that the impasse will remain private between the player and team. Joe Looney has been taking first-team snaps in place of Boone, meanwhile, and Baalke likes what he's seen. On linebacker Aldon Smith's fate with the NFL: Any discipline is expected to be decided upon before the regular season and perhaps before the Aug. 7 exhibition opener, Baalke said. Smith has said he expects to meet soon with commissioner Roger Goodell, and Baalke echoed that, also noting that a date remains to be determined. Baalke said team owner Jed York has spoken with Goodell about Smith's plight but "the gist is between the commissioner and owner." Smith must fulfill 11 work-release days as part of his court sentence, and Baalke said those dates will take precedence if they happen to coincide with any 49ers workload. On Smith's health: Baalke said the organization is "certainly happy" with how Smith is doing, cautioning it is a day-to-day process. "He's in great shape, he's having fun, and he brings calm and peace to the field," Baalke said. "He's a great teammate, and he's great with kids in the community." On trying to dethrone the Seahawks: "In all honesty, that's what you want. If you're going to win a championship, you want to know you did it against the best. You don't want to be given anything. So when you play in the division we play in right now, it's a battle. Let's not just talk about Seattle. Let's talk about Arizona. Let's talk about the Rams. There's no easy ones in this division, and no easy wins in the NFL.
"We know if we can win this division, we have a great chance to take this thing as far as we want or can take it," Baalke continued. "If they end up being in our way in the playoffs, then you've got to play them. But we've got to win Week 1, and then we'll worry about Week 2, then we'll worry about Week 3. We're not looking ahead to the end of the season here and enshrining us a team that's going to be in the Super Bowl. We've got to earn that right." On the linebacker competition: Michael Wilhoite, Chris Borland and Nick Moody are battling for NaVorro Bowman's spot through the first half of the season, and Baalke said: "It's going to be a heck of a competition." Baalke said Bowman "looks good but he hasn't started running, jumping and cutting. But that will come." On running back Kendall Hunter, who tore an ACL Friday and likely will go on injured reserve Monday: Hunter remains in great standing with the organization. His rookie contract expires after this season and Baalke hinted that a return is likely. "We'd love to have Kendall. Kendall is a tremendous football player and even better young man. What's the likelihood? It's not worth speculating at this point, but Kendall and his representative know how we feel about him." On running back Marcus Lattimore: He has had "no setback" in his return from a "horrific" knee injury that ended his college career and sidelined him last year. "We want to make sure, and so does he, that he's 100-percent ready to go mentally and physically to help this football team," Baalke said. On the team's frequency in rehabbing ACL tears: This is a timely topic because of the recent wave of ACL injuries as well as the 49ers' draft strategy to select prospects coming off knee issues. In summary, Baalke admitted "there's always risk" but that players' mental toughness plays a pivotal role in their recoveries. On Colin Kaepernick's contract: Baalke called it a "relief" that a core player such as Kaepernick got locked up to an extension before camp, as projected. As for what he wants to see from Kaepernick now, Baalke said, "There's always things he can get better at: how he reads progressions, decision making, accuracy -- all the things quarterbacks work on. The thing about Colin is he's not afraid to work. He's a bulldog." On tight end Vernon Davis' contract demands: Baalke called Davis an "integral" part of the team for a long time and is one of those guys he wants to stick around longer. Baalke would not discuss any status of potential contract talks. On the roster bubble: Baalke sees four to five spots up for grabs on the final 53-man roster, that we can pencil in 48 to 49 guys right now. On running back Carlos Hyde: The rookie is "flashing" with his vision, feet and pad level, supporting the 49ers' selection of drafting him in the second round. "He's a 235-pound back with small-man movement," Baalke said. "He's a natural runner and you can see that." On the No. 2 running back job: Baalke said LaMichael James has the license to grab the No. 2 role behind Gore, "who Father Time is having a hard time catching up with." Jewel Hampton drew mention, too. On wide receiver Stevie Johnson: His quick hands, feet and deceptive speed have impressed Baalke. On first-round pick Jimmie Ward: Baalke is excited about how Ward has seemed to get his hands on the ball every day in camp and also get physical at the line in the slot against Johnson.
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.