After a 2020 of Zooms, virtual workouts and a lot of time spent alone, the San Francisco 49ers are grateful for a 2021 offseason that feels a little more, well, normal.
“[J]ust [to] have a little normalcy, it is nice,” said tight end George Kittle. “You’re still sitting six feet away from each other, but just being able to be in the same room and actually have conversations with guys, it definitely brings a little bit of the fun back to football…So just enjoying spending time with my teammates and the fact that we have everyone here, but two guys…[I]t’s very impressive. The fact that everyone wants to be here and they’ll get better together, those days are just hanging out and talking. Whether guys are playing cards, chess, whatever they’re doing, but guys, they’re bonded. I think that’s a huge…[I]t’s really big for the team able to spend time together and take that step forward. Just to be friends.”
— Tracy Sandler (@49ersfangirl) May 25, 2021
The NFL is currently in the voluntary portion of offseason programs, but as Kittle said above, all but two people are in attendance. One of those two people is Nick Bosa, who has been rehabbing from his torn ACL injury in Florida.
“…I’ve been talking to Nick since February on this,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “He came out in February for a while to get checked up on his knee and stuff. With him coming off the ACL and everything, it’s going great. I’m sure you guys have seen some videos. But, he’s got a good setup out there with his brother and the guy who works with his knee. They’re in contact with our guys all the time and just didn’t want to take him off his routine right now. I totally agree with him out there. He’s going to show up at some time during this…but we fully expect him to be ready for training camp.”
The other player missing is Dee Ford, who is also recovering from injury.
“…Dee Ford has been here since February,” Shanahan said. “He’s been throughout this whole offseason, all the rehab, really made a lot of strides in this offseason together. Everyone knows the sensitivity of his injury with his back and stuff, but he’s been putting in a lot of work here and we feel it’s going the right direction. Last week we sent him home, because he had been here so long, to go back to his hometown, see his doctor and plan on coming back here in the next couple of weeks. But don’t expect to see him till training camp on the field.”
It says a lot about the organization and about the team to have such high attendance. That is not necessarily the case for the rest of the league.
“I was really happy,” Shanahan said. “…[F]or our guys to show up like they did—my biggest concern was only getting a week with the guys…We’ve only been around these guys for four days until our first OTA. So that’s what made me really nervous in terms of just putting these guys out there. That’s why we’ve had to take some reps away and hopefully we’ll get to normal OTAs next week. But our guys came in and we got guys who really enjoy football. I know there’s a lot of different opinions on all that stuff, but it’s hard to get better at football if you don’t practice it. It’s hard to get better at any sport if you don’t practice playing the game. There’s lots of ways to improve yourself, but you’ve really got to practice the sport get better at it…But, when you’ve got to make a decision about what’s best for the team, I’m always going to make a decision to provide our guys with a safe place to play football so they can get better at football. I’m just pumped that we did get a big turnout of guys because sometimes it’s hard to provide that for players if you don’t have 22 people out there. That’s why it’s hard to play other places. Our guys came in, they wanted to work. They wanted to see what our plan was. I told them some of my concerns, which was mainly this first week with the soft tissues and stuff. I think they agreed. I think they like how the plan is that I’ve set up. I take a day by day though, and we’ll see how it goes.”
It is notable that LB Fred Warner is in attendance, as he is now eligible for a contract extension that hasn’t happened yet.
“I want to get it done personally,” Shanahan said. “I kind of feel like I’d say the same about him as I did about [TE George] Kittle when we were talking about it. I just see that kind of as a matter of time. I know he’s not going into his free agent year or anything like that, so that’s why it’s not always on my mind. But, Fred’s a guy that I plan on being here forever and who has earned that. I’d be surprised if that doesn’t start sooner than later.”
That sentiment is shared by the man himself.
“Obviously, I want to be a Niner for life, too,” Warner said. “I know all that stuff will work itself out in due time, and I’m just focused on being the best player I can for this team. That’s why I’m here, I’m working with my guys, and we have huge aspirations and goals for the season. I’m really excited about this season that we’re going to have.”
QBs 1 and 2
This particular offseason has hardly been status quo for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. His world was turned somewhat upside down when the 49ers traded for the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to get their presumptive quarterback of the future in Trey Lance. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you believe you are the quarterback of the future.
“When it initially happened, there’s a million emotions that go on throughout your head and you think of all the possible scenarios and things like that,” Garoppolo said. “But at the end of the day, I want to play football. I want to go out there and win games. That’s what I do. It wasn’t anything too crazy. It took a little while to process everything. But once I did, it was just, go out there and ball. You’ve just got to attack it. NFL is a crazy business, things happen, but you’ve just got to attack it day-by-day and make the best of it.”
Garoppolo was not in a dissimilar situation when he was drafted by the New England Patriots to be Tom Brady’s potential heir apparent. Narrator: He was not the heir apparent. He instead got traded to San Francisco.
Lance said that one of the first calls he received after he was drafted was from Garoppolo.
“…[W]hen you get drafted, I went through the whole process of being there, it’s a unique experience and just a crazy night,” Garoppolo said. “All the emotions. You’ve worked so hard to get to that point, and now you’re there getting drafted. So, I just wanted to tell him congratulations. You’ve worked hard to get here and everything and just start off on the right foot. It’s not every day you get drafted to the NFL, so I hope he enjoyed it.”
In terms of their relationship, or a potential friendship, they don’t have to be besties. They just have to respect each other.
“Trey’s real cool,” Garoppolo said. “We’ve had a great relationship so far. All the QBs, we’ve got a big QB room right now. It’s a good group of guys, fun to be around. It’s kind of one of those things, I don’t want to do anything out of the ordinary, do something that’s not me. So, I just try to treat it like I normally would with anyone else. I just go about my business, just be myself and let the cards fall as they may, or chips fall as they may.”
Get your popcorn ready. Training camp is a couple months away.
Jeff Wilson Jr.
It was reported Tuesday that running back Jeff Wilson Jr. tore his meniscus and will be out four to six months.
On Wednesday, general manager John Lynch clarified what happened. Wilson was talking with teammates in the locker room, when he stood up, turned around and felt a pop, per Lynch.
“He’s a little embarrassed as to how it happened, but that’s how it happened,” Lynch said.
Wilson had surgery on Friday and is expected to begin the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
“He was really excited for the opportunity,” Lynch said. “The mindset, the physical shape he was in, you could tell he was extremely focused. So this is devastating for him.”