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A.J. Jenkins, Rookie No More

Posted Apr 24, 2013

A.J. Jenkins discussed his offseason workouts with Colin Kaepernick.

A span of 365 days practically feels like 365 minutes for A.J. Jenkins.

The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver was awaiting his NFL future this time last year. Now, he’s sitting on a stool in the 49ers locker room listening to teammates banter about their morning workout.

Life moves fast like that, Jenkins can attest.

The former Illinois standout caught 90 passes for 1,276 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior and latrer became San Francisco’s first-round choice in 2012. Jenkins, however, did not record a single catch in his rookie season.

Despite the first season production, the No. 30 overall pick in last year’s draft has made drastic changes this offseason to see greater results in his second season with the 49ers.

Most notably, Jenkins trained alongside Colin Kaepernick to grow chemistry with San Francisco’s starting quarterback. Along with fellow wide receivers Riccardo Lockette and Chad Hall, Jenkins made it a priority to develop a greater rapport with the third-year quarterback.

“It’s been a real great offseason with him, Lockette and Hall,” Jenkins told 49ers.com after taking part in an offseason workout at team headquarters. “We were down in Atlanta working hard.”

Speed training and weight lifting was a big portion of the workouts, but Jenkins stressed the route-running and timing aspects of the sessions with Kaepernick.

He also got accustomed to catching the laser-like passes thrown by San Francisco’s starting quarterback.

“The speed of the passes,” Jenkins said, pausing for a minute as if to recall some of the hardest passes he caught this offseason, “it was all about getting used to working with him. That was the main focus, the chemistry.”

Jenkins is eager to begin phase two of the team’s offseason program. It’ll allow the coaches on the field to see how much progress he’s made in developing an on-field relationship with the starting quarterback.

Jenkins isn’t alone in that mindset.

“We’re looking forward to the upcoming year and trying to get that chemistry going,” the young wide receiver said of his training group of Lockette and Hall.

The offseason is a crucial component for second-year players looking to make strides in the National Football League. Jim Harbaugh has often said that period of time is when a player can make his greatest improvements.

In Jenkins’ case, a full offseason to train with his 49ers teammates allows the young play-maker to increase his strength and quickness. He enjoys having the camaraderie of working next to his teammates, too.

“It’s definitely fun,” he said. “You’ve trained with different players from different teams, but to have your own guys there, it’s been great.

“Knowing that these guys are going to be on your team, you get closer to them. That’s the partner you’re going to go to battle with on Sundays.”

Jenkins has been battling this offseason to earn a greater role in the 49ers offense. Jenkins didn’t have the rookie season he wanted, but isn’t dwelling on it either.

“Everything’s good with me, everything’s positive my way,” Jenkins said.

The workouts in Atlanta were just one of the main reasons why Jenkins is comfortable with his surroundings going into year two. He knows his quarterback much better and will continue to build on his knowledge of Greg Roman’s offensive attack.

Nobody told Jenkins to join Kaepernick’s workouts, it was all part of his offseason plan.

“I did it for myself,” he said. “I’m playing this game because I love the game.”

Jenkins looks back on his first year with the 49ers and can’t help but realize how fast it’s gone.

“Time flies,” he said. “A full year, wow, that’s crazy.”

With the NFL Draft set to begin on Thursday, the former first-round pick will look out for former Illinois teammates to see where they’ve been selected.

But Jenkins also has wisdom to share with them and any other incoming rookie.

“As soon as you’re drafted, the work starts.”

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