Two San Francisco 49ers rookie minicamp practices are in the books and three more sessions are on the way over the course of the next two days. Welcome to the NFL rookies, it’s time to start getting in the playbook.
As much of an eye-opening experience as Friday’s pair of 49ers rookie minicamp sessions were to some in attendance, the NFL newcomers appeared to get their bearings by the start of the afternoon practice.
After an early morning session that saw rookies, try out players and a few members of last year’s 49ers practice squad compete in various circuit drills (a staple of Jim Harbaugh’s offseason on-field work), the players had things figured out much better in the afternoon. As a result, practice tempo increased.
“It felt real good to finally be coached by the coaches,” first-round pick
The rookies weren’t expected to know everything from day one, but they were tested to show their willingness to learn and compete on the fly.
“It was already a great team before we got here,” second-round pick
Although a complete understanding of their respective playbooks will be expected of them in due time, the emphasis on Friday’s practices were on rookies working hard in front of a new set of teammates and coaches.
“We’re not going to know everything,” continued James, a Pac-12 nemesis of Harbaugh when the two represented Oregon and Stanford University, respectively. “It’s a new offense; we’re all coming from college to a whole different level. They wanted to see our effort today.”
Harbaugh had a different description for it.
Asked what he wanted to see over the course of the rookie camp, the NFL’s reigning Coach of the Year paused and said, “Creative destruction.”
The 49ers coach further explained what he wanted to see from the incoming rookies.
“Who that newcomer is, that new startup guy that’s going to be more motivated, going to be talented, going to be hungrier, going to be a harder worker,” Harbaugh said. “And somebody that’s going to come in here and kind of upset a position that’s already established on this team. So, I know it will be somebody and I’m excited to watch it go down this weekend.”
According to 49ers tight end
“The whole group is picking up things a lot quicker than even I expected,” said the tight end that’s been at the front of the tight end group by showing routes and blocking concepts to his younger understudies. “As Coach Harbaugh said, ‘We’re not holding up (play) cards, we’re learning it on the go.’”
Reuland didn’t have the opportunity to participate in a rookie camp with last year’s offseason work stoppage, but he did have a grasp of the offensive system from his time at Stanford.
So far, he’s enjoyed being one of the most experienced guys on the field.
“It’s been competitive,” Reuland added. “All these guys are out here competing so it’s been a lot of fun.”
What’s been done previously by the 49ers rookies, however, simply won’t matter to Harbaugh and the coaching staff. All the newcomers have a clean slate.
“This is a meritocracy here with the San Francisco 49ers,” Harbaugh shared. “All the pomp and circumstance that led up to the draft, how fast a guy could run a 40-yard dash, or how high he could jump, or how fast he could go around a three cone, or go over a little cone, or run through a cone, all that’s out the window.
“Where they played, what they did, what somebody else might have said about them. Now it’s all on their merit. And they come out here each practice and guarantee they’re going up, or it’s going down. And that’s our job as coaches, is to coach these guys and evaluate them every single day. We’re not going to wait for a week to go by. It’s going to be a daily thing.”
“There’s a lot of great talent out there,” the Virginia linebacker said. “You’ve got guys who are fast, strong, big and all the above. You just want to show you can compete with those guys at a high level.”
But in order to compete throughout the summer, improved conditioning will be key to the rookies while they push veterans on the 49ers roster for playing time.
Harbaugh even made it a point to stress fitness to his players following the first practice.
“Coach said there’s no way guys are working like how we work out here,” said safety Trent Robinson, a sixth-round selection out of Michigan State. “I learned that today. I was tired out there but now I know what to prepare for and the tempo is going to keep getting faster as we keep going.”