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SANTA CLARA - Part of what I enjoy as a sports writer is to bring you, the reader, places you can’t go. Places like the 49ers practice field. To make you feel you’re standing on the sideline watching practice with me.

For the past couple years, though, there hasn’t been much to watch. In 2015, we had Jim Tomsula who seemed to think the most important aspect of practice was players getting out of the huddle as soon as possible. Twenty times an afternoon he’d yell, “Tempo!” while the quarterback recited the play call to his teammates. “Tempo” seemed like the only word Tomsula ever said on the field.

Then last year, we had Chip Kelly who seemed the think the most important aspect of practice was ending it as soon as possible. Kelly almost never worked his players longer than 90 minutes, and significant portions of that time were “teach” periods when players would stand around and philosophize about football with assistant coaches. Maybe they philosophized about philosophy, like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Kelly typically never said a word to anyone unless he was chatting with kicker Phil Dawson — those two were close — or one of Kelly’s special guests, such as country singer Kenny Chesney.

It’s nice to watch a real head coach lead real practices again. I’m talking about Kyle Shanahan, as real as they get.

Shanahan works his players as long as the collective bargaining agreement allows. Right now, it allows for two hours a day. Shanahan maximizes this time. No more ridiculous “teach” periods. Players always are moving, working, doing drills. And Shanahan works with them.

Sometimes Shanahan works with tight ends and wide receivers on running routes — he played wide receiver at the University of Texas. He knows route-running. And when a player runs the wrong route, Shanahan yells. Curses. Stops the drill and shows everyone the proper way to run it.

It’s nice to watch a coach who’s not afraid of players. It’s nice to watch a coach who has passion.

When Shanahan isn’t working with the receivers, he’s watching the defense. Or he’s working with the quarterbacks on the mechanics of passing to their left. Showing them how to open their hips and where to stride before releasing the ball.

Or, he’s playing cornerback while the offense rehearses the plays it will run against the defense later during practice. Shanahan covers one receiver man to man or drops into a zone, forcing the quarterback to read the coverage and go through his progressions.

It’s nice to watch a quarterback go through his progressions.

It’s nice to watch pass patterns again. It’s nice to watch three wide receivers run to one side of the field and form three tips of a triangle — just the way Bill Walsh designed his pass plays.

Last year, Kelly made his players practice “people plays,” where the quarterback would catch the snap and stare at one player — the slot receiver — until that player decided to cut left or right. Then the quarterback would throw him the ball. What in the world are people plays?

When the 49ers weren’t practicing people plays, Kelly made them practice the read-option — or the zone-read, or whatever Kelly called that simple play — over and over and over.

It’s nice not to see that play.

It’s nice not to watch assistant coaches call plays with hand signals from the sideline, frantically gesturing like those people on airport tarmacs who wave orange batons, while the players stand on the field and face them, taking orders like robots.

It’s nice not to watch that gimmick college offense.

It’s nice to watch the West Coast Offense instead. It’s nice to see players huddle. It’s nice to see a fullback on the field. It’s nice to see the quarterbacks under center.

It’s nice to see quarterbacks who care more about throwing accurately than throwing as hard as they can. It’s nice to see quarterbacks who want to hang in the pocket and throw rather than scramble all the time. It’s nice to see quarterbacks who are quarterbacks and not just athletes.

It’s nice to see an offense that features bootlegs and roll-out passes. Shanahan designs specific plays to move the pocket for the quarterback so he doesn’t get killed. Kelly’s offense made the quarterback stand in the same spot almost every time, and pass rushers knew exactly where to find him before the play even started. Pass rusher were guided missiles aimed at 49ers quarterbacks. Kelly acted like he didn’t understand why the 49ers allowed 47 sacks last season — third most in the NFL.

It’s nice to watch a competent defensive coordinator for a change. One who emphasizes stopping the run above all else. Even though players can’t tackle during OTAs, Robert Saleh makes every defender on the field sprint to the running back, grab him and try to rip the ball out of his hands.

This is new. Last year’s defensive coordinator, Jim O’Neil, was more interested in practicing fancy blitzes to sack the quarterback even though the defense rarely got to use those blitzes during games because it couldn’t stop run.

Watching practice last year, you wanted to smack yourself in the head out of sheer frustration.

It’s nice not to feel that way anymore.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.