As I strapped myself in for Camp Singletary 2.0, I felt a familiar knot in my gut. Here we go again, I thought. Another camp as old-school as the man himself. Another camp of relentless pounding, with a matching body-count.

Another camp of Singletarian madness.

But I'll give him this: the guy can surprise you. THIS was Camp Singletary? Where on earth was the Toughness Patrol?

His signature drill, the infamous nutcracker, was merely a shadow of last year's absurdity. When the players were dragging through padded two-a-days, he actually noticed and gave 'em a break. And what's that sound? Is that music playing? Is that...JAZZ?

Man. Just when you think you've got him pegged, Camp Singletary turns into Camp Minnehaha.

But the results were encouraging. Only one serious injury (with special-teams ace Scott McKillop the loser in this year's ACL roulette, though Ahmad Brooks' kidney and Eric Heitmann's fibula will bear watching). And more importantly, the team's play looked on schedule, with even the (gasp!) passing game turning the occasional head.

You could quibble about Aubrayo Franklin's franchise-tag protest, an S.O.P. you'd like to think Singletary could break. But on the whole, through camp's first week, a strange sensation predominated. A sensation we're not quite used to around here. A sensation that led you to think--stop me if you've heard this one--we're finally ready to soar.

A strange sensation of peace.

Boy, THOSE were the days, eh?

On day 10, the cracks started to show. Kentwan Balmer, who'd skipped practice the day before, was excused to deal with what the Niners called a "personal matter." (Mercifully, there was no confusion about whether they meant a "PERSONNEL matter.") No details were offered, but Singletary promised that Balmer would be back. The next day, though, he wasn't, and he became, officially, a deserter.

Balmer, of course, had been teetering on the brink of first-round bustdom. If he hadn't quit he might well have been cut. So no biggie. Get back to me when someone ELSE quits. Then we might have an issue here.

Okay, said Glen Coffee. I quit.

Now THERE'S a guy we were counting on. Sure, as a rookie only a year ago, he didn't exactly set the world on fire. But he was the increasingly valuable backup to the increasingly vulnerable Frank Gore. The #2 runner on a run-first team. And completely out of the blue, he "retired" at 23. Apparently, he'd found religion in college and been uncommitted to football since. Singletary said he appreciated Coffee's "honesty." Now if only he'd been honest a little sooner, like, say, in his pre-draft interview.

And just like that, our peaceful camp was turned upside down by two desertions in three days. Just in time for our first exhibition game. On the road, against the Colts.

And the first-team results--the only ones that really matter in the preseason--were as predictable as a Mike Singletary offense. Alas, no surprises were waiting here.

Our first play. Naturally, a run up the middle. With Gore sitting, this would've been Coffee, but instead it's Michael Robinson, now frighteningly high on the depth chart. He fumbles, of course. And in 14 seconds, our run-first O hangs our D out to dry.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 49ers! Oops. 2010 I mean.

Our second play, another run up the middle, though this three-and-out is chiefly the product of Anthony Davis's best Kwame Harris. After our D makes Peyton Manning look every bit as great as he is--he goes 6 for 6 on a 90-yard march--now we're down 10, and NOW of course we'll open it up. Obviously more comfortable (again, just like last year), Alex Smith makes a couple of nice connections. But then, with Vernon Davis wide open on his way to the end zone, Smith quite simply throws behind him. Three more incompletions and a tipped pick later--all of which are high, wide, or both--Smith's day is done. He's 3 for 9 for 37 yards and the pick, for a rating of 7.4.

Maybe it's okay, though. Maybe he's still just "arm weary."

Things got a lot better when the first teams were gone. Anthony Dixon looked as good as we're gonna need him to be, and Nate Davis did nothing to quiet the shouts for more reps. But those highlights were lost in the haze of a starting O that lived all the way down to our very worst fears. "Continuity," all right, in the very worst way.

Please, spare me the fact that it's just the preseason, and just the first game. It was the Colts' first game too, and THEY didn't seem to show any rust. Of course, they're a championship contender. You EXPECT contenders to be ready, to come out firing on all cylinders. That's just what contenders do, right?

Oh, sorry. I thought we were a contender too.

These guys--both players and coaches alike--need to understand something, quick. Yeah, they're the hot pick to win their division, if only by default. They've heard all about this breakout season they're destined to have. But not everyone's convinced. Our archenemies, those Football Outsiders, say we'll finish our division DEAD LAST. These guys are promised nothing. And if they don't raise their game--and if they don't raise it QUICK--nothing's exactly what they're gonna get.

Ah, well, so much for peace. But if you listen to Singletary, peace is overrated. "It would be very easy to go through the entire offseason and go through training camp without facing any adversity at all," he said. "Go into the season and you have one setback and think, 'Oh my goodness, how are we going to deal with that?' [This way, we] can deal with anything."

Well, that's ONE way of looking at it. And naturally, I hope he's right.

I think, though, I'd still prefer peace.