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Oh Captain, My Captain, And Friday Before The 49ers

It is an impressive story, D.J. Humphries and his rise from a rookie who was inactive all season to a captain (in the season he signed a giant contract extension.) He was asked about how he planned to captain his teammates, and the left tackle admitted he was surprised with the honor and hadn't thought much about it yet.

But he did have a request.

"The only thing that I do want, though, I want as many people who were writing about me calling me 'Knee Deep' to remember to write about me and call me 'Captain' now," Humphries said.

A quick reminder that "Knee Deep" was the nickname Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin gave Humphries when he was a rookie, in reference to his lack of motivation and his, uh, need to be motivated by a coach's foot in a place that won't be mentioned. Not exactly a shock, Humphries didn't like it.

Last year, before the Cards played Arians and the Buccaneers, Humphries said it had made him mad, allowing that he wasn't a great rookie and he didn't feel like he had "been done wrong."

"I don't want that to be the perception," he said then. "I wasn't done wrong. Everything I got I deserved, but I never called anyone out on their name."

Still, as Humphries smiled talking about his new captaincy Friday, there was a deserved smile of satisfaction.

"So when they address me, they address me correctly -- captain D.J.Humphries," he said. "All those with the same energy with that 'Knee Deep,' remember to call me 'Captain' now."

-- It's Captain Hump that will lead that offensive line against a pretty nice 49ers defense (albeit one without interior wrecker DeForest Buckner, now traded) Sunday. Hopefully in the Bay Area – more on that in a minute. There are lots of places upon which to pay attention to this week, but how the line protects Kyler Murray seems to be a pretty important one.

-- About the game. According to my unscientific weather app on my iPhone Friday, the air quality index in San Jose was well above the 200 level that would prevent a game. (I saw 221 this afternoon). No word on what will happen. Both teams and the NFL are monitoring. Running back Tevin Coleman of the 49ers might not play because of health issues even if the game goes on. It's a scary deal. It's also about as 2020 as you get – after all this with the coronavirus to get the season going, wildfires deliver a potential knockout blow to the opener.

-- Even if the game happens, no fans. Players have been thinking about that, even as a foregone conclusion as long as it's been.

"Going to be a heck of a lot different without fans in the stands and the pageantry of an NFL game on Sunday and the flyovers and all the cool stuff that you see when all the people are in the stands," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "But at the end of the day I've got to run good routes, I have to get separation, I have to come across the middle and if (linebacker) Fred Warner is there he's going to hit me like it's a game with 70,000 people in it, so I've got to be ready to go."

-- Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph continues to say rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons will have a clearly defined linebacking role for now, because they don't want to overload him. What Simmons does – and how much he does it – Sunday is one of the main things I'm watching.

-- I'm watching DeAndre Hopkins too, but does that even need to be said?

-- The Cards finally had someone go on the COVID reserve list. It was inevitable. This thing is simply too contagious to think a team – with so many players and staff – would hit 1.000 on players not testing positive and/or being in contact with someone who is. The goal of the protocols, as Kliff Kingsbury said at the outset of camp, was not to have no positive tests but to make sure any virus was contained if something cropped up. The fact only KeeSean Johnson is on the list is a good sign for the Cards.

-- If Kenyan Drake rushes for a touchdown, he'll have as many rushing TDs in nine games with the Cards as he had in 54 games playing for the Dolphins.

-- To begin the week, Kingsbury pointed out to the team the Cards are 3-12-1 in September since 2016, and two of the wins came in overtime.

"Just making the point, we feel like being able to stay out on the grass longer, practice outside longer, practice at a higher level, we'll be better early on in the season instead of transitioning inside (the bubble), which we've done for most of practice," Kingsbury said. "We're going to bump practices up (earlier), be on the grass longer and hopefully have better practices. That's kind of the point."

The Cards have practiced in the 8 a.m. hour for almost all of camp and again this week. It's different than anytime in the past. We'll see what it might mean, although this year, everything seems different anyway – what's one more detail out of the ordinary.

Finally, football. See you Sunday.

OT D.J. Humphries wipes his face with a towel during a September practice in 2020