Studying hasn’t been an issue for James. The speedy, 5-foot-9, 195-pound running back drafted with the intention of being a versatile contributor for Roman’s offensive unit, finished up his sociology studies this offseason, missing seven weeks of workouts with new 49ers teammates. Despite the absence, James brushed up on the basics from afar.
Now that he’s back in the Bay Area this week along with fellow rookies and select veterans, who either don’t have a full year of NFL experience or missed offseason workouts due to injury, James is making the most of his extra week of preparation before the start of training camp on Friday.
“I feel like I made great progression in that department, getting in the playbook, learning the plays, just the more reps you get, the better you get,” James said on Monday. “It’s all coming to me.”
The former Oregon standout, who rushed for 1,805 yards and added 18 touchdowns last season, has been seeking help from veterans inside the locker room, as well as running backs coach Tom Rathman. He’s also traded text messages with fellow running backs on the roster.
“Anytime you were a little kid you dreamed of playing in the NFL,” James added. “Just coming out here and to be in an NFL locker room, it’s real now. As you get here, you have to continue to strive to be the best you can be and prove that you’re here to work and make the team.”
James admitted he was bothered from not being able to show his commitment level directly to his new teammates during Organized Team Activities and veteran minicamp. James did attend two rookie minicamps this offseason, and mostly used his time away the best way he could by taking it upon himself to be prepared for camp.
“I feel like I can do anything they ask me to do,” said James, before mentioning special teams, running the ball and pass catching as immediate skills he can offer. “Anything they need me to do, I’m here ready to work and help the team in any way I can.”
“I feel real confident,” said Jenkins, the No. 30 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. “I’ve been studying the playbook like crazy over the break so I feel real good about the play calling and everything right now. I’m not a stranger to it, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
Jenkins, too, will look to apply his talents on special teams. The University of Illinois product has received special teams tips from return specialist
Jenkins appreciated the opportunity to report one week early and added, “The feeling of a football camp is definitely here though, it’s definitely here.”
Perhaps the biggest indication of camp’s arrival was the sight of new Nike game uniforms being placed in the player’s lockers.
“It’s exciting to see your name actually on an NFL jersey,” said Brown, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound athlete making the adjustment to outside linebacker in the NFL. “To me, it was motivation to continue to work hard so you can stay and make the roster.”
James, on the other hand, didn’t find as much meaning with the jersey presentation. After all, James’ exposure to Nike uniforms was seemingly exhausted from his college days. However, the shifty running back takes a different approach to seeing his first 49ers game uniform.
“The jersey doesn’t make the player,” he said. “I have to go out there and work hard. I can’t really see it anyways so it doesn’t really matter.”
James’ teammates will get a better glimpse of the uniform in action throughout the week. But for now, building a greater understanding of the offensive, defensive and special teams systems is most important.
Being in a week before their veteran counterparts is only a plus.
“Any advantage they give us as rookies is great, especially coming from a break,” Brown added. “I don’t know what other guys did as far as studying in their playbook, but it’s great to get a head start so you have a fair chance to compete.”