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Back in the Building

Posted Jul 26, 2011



Joe Staley and Adam Snyder were laughing at each other’s jokes. Patrick Willis and strength coach Mark Uyeyama conversed like old friends. Mike Iupati, Anthony Dixon and Nate Byham felt like seasoned vets, while rookie Bruce Miller received a personal welcome from none other than running backs coach Tom Rathman.

Such was the scene early Tuesday morning inside the 49ers locker room with players returning to work as early as 7:00 a.m., eager to begin a new chapter of 49ers football.

Football activities were voluntary on Tuesday for the 49ers who arrived in Santa Clara. Players met with their coaches and had to go through physicals before doing any physical activities. Several 49ers chose to get their physicals done early in the morning so they could exercise in the newly installed outdoor workout area designated for training camp.

“It feels great to be back,” said Willis, who told reporters he set three different alarms to wake up in the morning. “We have to make it happen. I’m tired of losing. I want to experience what it’s like to win. I feel optimistic about this season and what we have here. I can’t wait to get it started.”

While 49ers players like Willis were extremely eager to begin the 2011 campaign, many of them had trouble finding their lockers first. The typical locker arrangement the players had come to expect was changed by head coach Jim Harbaugh. Now the locker room looks like a sporadic mix of players intertwined with various position groups.

“I think it’s great,” said Snyder, a seven-year veteran all with the 49ers. “For years it’s always been pockets, where the o-line all sets next to each other and d-line is all next to each other. Now that we’re all mixed in, I think it’ll help the relationships off the field and the relationships on the field.”

Position groups will spend plenty of time together in meeting rooms and on the practice fields.  The locker room switch up should only enhance team building from day one.

Despite the NFL work stoppage, relationships between the players remained constant. Players found solace by working out together at San Jose State University. Training sessions at the nearby college allowed players the opportunity to work out together if they were unable to utilize personal trainers.

“I had a good time working out at ‘State,” Iupati said. “The guys out there treated us really good and a lot of guys stepped up as leaders. It was a good experience.”

But now that they’re back inside the walls of 4949 Centennial Blvd., the players are happy to look forward.

“I feel like our owners put together a good coaching staff from Coach Harbaugh down and I’m looking forward about working with each and every one of them,” Willis said. “We all have to be optimistic and be excited for a new opportunity.

“New coaches, they’re doing things their way, so I’m optimistic. I’m open to whatever.”

The same can be said for players like Snyder who are eager to begin practice.

“It’s going to be a shotgun-start where everybody is going to be crazy,” said the versatile lineman. “But it’s good though, we’re going to get right back into it.”

Similarly, the timing couldn’t be better for Willis. He’s coming off season-ending wrist surgery that caused him to miss the only game of his four-year career, a Week 17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

“I feel like my body really needed some time to rest,” said the four-time Pro Bowler, who spoke highly of the new player-friendly policies in the CBA. “I feel like I had to do some stuff on my own, but I enjoyed the time I had spending time with family.”

Rookies like Miller, one of three of the team’s seventh-round draft picks, were able to enter team headquarters on Tuesday. The 49ers unrestricted free agents like quarterback Alex Smith were also allowed to enter.

However, when training camp begins on Thursday, any player without a contract can’t be inside team headquarters. Rookies can begin contract negotiations as of Tuesday; free agents can now negotiate with teams but won’t be able to sign until Friday at 3:00 p.m. ET. Additionally, any new free agent signees will not be able to participate in any physical activities until the new league year begins, which will happen no later than on Aug. 4.

The 49ers will hold meetings and a conditioning test on Thursday when camp begins and will hold their first practices in helmets on Friday and Saturday. Full-padded practices kick-off Sunday.

Joe Show Returns

Joe Staley grabbed the TV49 microphone, looked into the camera, and felt right back at home.

The 49ers left tackle returned to 49ers headquarters with a slew of his teammates on Tuesday morning ready for work now that the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Staley, the outspoken 49ers lineman, was happy to volunteer his services for 49ers.com early Tuesday morning. Staley interviewed a few teammates for his hit TV49 show, “The Joe Show.” Interviews with linemen Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder along with kicker Joe Nedney prove that the players were in good spirits as they returned to work.

Check out a teaser of the upcoming episode.