Jerry Rice is coming back and Steve Young is healthy, so after a year of an uncharacteristic conservative offense by the San Francisco 49ers, coach Steve Mariucci says he's going to let it rip.
"Beautiful," Young said Saturday after taking part in the first practice at the team's new training camp at the University of the Pacific."That's the nature of our offense. The more explosive you get, the more progressive you get mentally, just in your preparation. It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy and pretty soon, you're not just eking out first downs. You're really exploding and you don't even know why. It just happens."
So this year, look for the 49ers to use more three-wide receiver sets and one-back formations and more scrambling by Young.
Mariucci feels he can open up San Francisco's attack because of the development of receivers Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes, the return of Rice, Young's improved health, and added depth at quarterback with the acquisition of Ty Detmer.
"Now, we're not going to play crazy and we're not going to take a lot of unnecessary risks, but we're going to try to utilize our talent the best way we can," Mariucci said. "It's going to be the same offense. It's just going to be a bit more on the wide-open side."
Mariucci reigned in San Francisco's offense after last year's disastrous season-opening loss at Tampa Bay in which Rice shredded his left knee and Young was knocked out by a concussion.
Relying on a smash-mouth style that showcased Garrison Hearst as the club's first 1,000-yard rusher in five years, San Francisco regrouped to win 11 straight and finished 13-3 before being ousted from the playoffs by Green Bay for the third straight year.
Young, who briefly considered retirement after suffering his third concussion in a 10-month span, spent a week on the sidelines but returned to start the 49ers last 16 games, including two postseason outings.
Rice fought back from reconstructive knee surgery to play Dec. 15 against Denver but fractured the kneecap on the same leg while making a touchdown catch against the Broncos, finishing him for the year.
The NFL's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, Rice is expected to be in camp by Monday.