Seifert met with what he calls "the Holy Trinity"—Dillingham, 49er trainer Lindsy McLean and Montana—before camp opened to plan Montana's preseason regimen. Dillingham and McLean decided that Montana should alternate throwing 40 passes one day and 60 the next, and that he should throw in only one practice a day, the morning session. Offensive assistant coach Brian Pariani was assigned to monitor Montana's pitch count, whose limits were strictly adhered to in the first few days of camp: Montana threw 40 passes on Thursday, 59 on Friday, 37 on Saturday and 55 on Sunday.
Before the 49ers return to the field in the afternoon, Montana devotes another hour to back and elbow exercises. He even works with rice—long grain, not Jerry, who's a holdout while his agent negotiates a new contract. For 15 minutes Montana plunges his hand into a plastic bucket containing 30 pounds of uncooked rice, turning his hand and bending his wrist in an exercise that strengthens the forearm and elbow. Then, in the afternoon practice, he simulates his role in the offense without throwing.
The return of Montana leaves San Francisco enviably deep at quarterback, what with the playing time Steve Young and then Steve Bono received last season before each of them was sidelined with strained knee ligaments. Niner vice-president John McVay resisted an off-season urge to trade Young or Bono, and he says both will be kept as backups. Young, who led the league in passing last year with a 101.8 rating, leads the NFL in diplomacy this summer. "It's a unique situation," he says of playing behind Montana. "I'll probably go to my grave saying, 'It was a unique situation.' "
But the backup role truly is eating at Young, who, nearing 31, is in the prime of his quarterbacking life. If indeed he sits through most of the 1992 season, he may feel as he did last May, when he said he couldn't accept being a substitute. "My situation," he said then, "is like running in the Kentucky Derby and then going back and running with the trotters at Yonkers. Forget it."
And don't forget Bono, 30, who went 5-1 as a starter in 1991. Neither Young nor Bono required knee surgery, and both reported to camp healthy. Though the three quarterbacks are competitive enough to cause a ripple of strife among teammates who choose sides, the trio is chummy enough to play golf together. They played last Saturday, and all shot below the temperature, which was 97°.
Odds are that between shots Montana pondered his future. "The question's in everyone's mind, and so they put it in my mind," he says. "Maybe I'm kidding myself. If it doesn't work out, hey, I've had a great career. I know I'm near the end. I just hope it can last a little longer."
Randall Cunningham, Eagles
THE DAMAGE: He tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee when Green Bay Packer linebacker Bryce Paup hit him on the first play of the second quarter in last year's season opener. Dr. Clarence Shields repaired the medial collateral ligament and transplanted an Achilles tendon from a cadaver to replace the posterior cruciate. The injury sidelined Cunningham, who had started 62 straight games, for the remainder of the season.
REHAB: He began a light running and conditioning program within a few days of the operation. Four to five hours a day of work on various leg-exercising machines now enable him to run without a limp. He's expected to play with an 18-inch knee brace that he is still getting used to. "What I like about it," Cunningham says of the brace, "is it's bulletproof."
PROGRESS REPORT: Cunningham, 29, ran without pain at minicamp in May, and last week he completed two weeks of voluntary precamp drills, during which he looked very much like his old self. "It's amazing, watching him work," coach Rich Kotite says. "If you didn't see the brace, you wouldn't know he'd been hurt so badly." The only worry is that when Cunningham accelerates, he still feels a burning sensation in the knee. But if Philadelphia had a game today, Cunningham definitely would start.