LaBoy beginning to make an impact

The San Francisco 49ers have been bringing along newcomer Travis
LaBoy slowly this summer, but the sixth-year veteran is now
accelerating the process.

After missing more than two weeks of training camp with a
concussion earlier this month, LaBoy has returned to the field and
made his mark at outside linebacker during San Francisco’s past two
preseason games.

LaBoy recorded sacks in both games and leads the team in that
statistic entering Thursday’s exhibition finale against San Diego.
And recording sacks is pretty much the reason the 49ers signed
LaBoy to a one-year deal in April after he missed the entire 2009
season with a foot injury.

”As long as I get to the quarterback, I guess everybody’s
happy, right?” LaBoy said Monday as the 49ers returned to practice
after an off day Sunday.

LaBoy collected a sack and three hits on Minnesota quarterbacks
in his 49ers debut Aug. 22 during a 15-10 victory over the Vikings.
But his second-quarter sack that knocked Oakland quarterback Jason
Campbell out of the game during Saturday’s 28-24 victory over the
Raiders was his most impressive play yet in a San Francisco
uniform.

The 250-pound LaBoy used his power to engage and push back
Oakland left tackle Mario Henderson, then used his speed to beat
Henderson around the edge and blast Campbell from the blind side.
Campbell was down on the turf for more than five minutes with a
shoulder stinger before leaving the field on a cart.

The 49ers are looking for that kind of effort this year from the
edge rushers in their 3-4 system. With 23.5 career sacks, LaBoy is
showing the skills to fit nicely into that scheme as a situational
pass rusher.

”That’s what they expect from me,” LaBoy said. ”It’s still
baby steps for me at this point. I’m just trying to improve from
one day to the next and hopefully carry that over into the
season.”

LaBoy got a late start on his summer progress after suffering a
concussion just days into training camp. He didn’t return to full
practice until Aug. 19, but has made up for lost time since getting
back on the field.

LaBoy has an immediate opportunity for a prominent role in San
Francisco’s rotation on the edge because of an injury to Ahmad
Brooks, who sustained a lacerated kidney Aug. 6 and has not
practiced since. Brooks’ condition is still being evaluated and he
is unlikely to be ready for San Francisco’s regular-season opener
Sept. 12 at Seattle.

The 49ers were expecting Brooks to play a major role in their
pass rush this year as a complement to starting outside linebackers
Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson. Brooks had five sacks in San
Francisco’s final five games last year during a surge that saw the
49ers lead the NFL with 27 sacks over the final eight games of the
season.

With Brooks out and his return uncertain, LaBoy and youngster
Diyral Briggs are the top candidates for the role. Briggs, an
undrafted free agent who played in four games for the 49ers last
year as a rookie, had a sack against Minnesota and also has looked
good this summer.

But LaBoy has looked better. Despite his steady progress, the
49ers appear inclined to gradually work LaBoy into their
system.

”With Travis LaBoy, he’s a work in progress,” 49ers coach Mike
Singletary said. ”He was all banged up and beat up when he got
here, and we’re just trying to nurse him back and get him back to
having fun being on the field. As he gets back to being himself,
we’ll try to create some places for him to be a part. The value
that he does bring when he’s on the field makes a big
difference.”

NOTES: Singletary said his starting units are unlikely to play
more than one or two series Thursday against the Chargers. …
Singletary said rookie seventh-round draft pick Phillip Adams, who
returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown against Oakland, has
worked his way into the mix for the team’s vacant role at punt
returner. Rookie sixth-rounder Kyle Williams, the leading candidate
for the job, has a sprained toe and might not be ready for the
regular-season opener.