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Jean Francois Continues Development

Posted Jun 7, 2012



In January of 2011, Ricky Jean Francois said he wanted to “become the Bruce Lee of what I do.”

In June of 2012, the fourth-year lineman said he’s making good on his ultimate goal.

“It’s getting better,” the 6-foot-3, 295-pound lineman said on Thursday, following the final Organized Team Activity of the offseason.

“I’m getting better at my reactions, using my hands, moving my hips, everything,” Jean Francois added. “That’s coming along, but now I just want to be able to do it in my pads.”

The young defensive lineman who has the ability to play both inside at nose tackle and as a defensive tackle in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defensive scheme, said he’s in the best shape of his football career, too.

Following the 49ers defeat in last year’s NFC title game and a season in which Jean Francois contributed a career-high 32 tackles and two pass breakups, the Miami native went immediately back to work with fellow teammates at his hometown training center, Legacy Fitness. Other 49ers to take part in the workouts included Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Donte Whitner and Tavares Gooden.

Jean Francois, however, made a slight adjustment to his offseason routine. This time around, the d-lineman decided to take on a regimen similar to mixed martial arts training.

“I wanted to change it up,” Jean Francois said. “I wanted to see how it would feel. It was basically like MMA training.”

Part of the workouts included boxing sessions that greatly benefitted Jean Francois’ hand strength, hand speed and overall stamina.

“When I saw the intensity, and how they were trying to prove a point to football players,” Jean Francois said, “it showed me I can get in shape by doing it.”

Soon after, Jean Francois sees his dedication paying off.

In joining defensive linemen who’d been working out at team headquarters on their own, Jean Francois’ was pleased to see his strength comparable to starting defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald.

“When I test my strength next to Justin and Ray,” Jean Francois said, “that’s when you know (it worked).”

Jean Francois continues to seek advice from his veteran teammates.

Smith, a first-team All-Pro at defensive tackle and second-team All-Pro at defensive end, is the first veteran Jean Francois approaches for pointers. It’s been that way for the past three years.

“He’ll help me from the film room to the field and make sure everything is clear,” Jean Francois detailed. “In the years that I’ve been here with Justin, Isaac (Sopoaga) and Ray, at first things were cloudy, but I think it’s clearing up now.”

Mastering his craft, and Fangio’s playbook, seems to be going well for the young defensive lineman.

However, Jean Francois won’t fully know how far he’s progressed until training camp begins. For now, the biggest emphasis for defensive linemen in contact-free OTAs has been understanding assignments.

But soon, the contact will be an enormous part of the process.

“It feels like you have an itch,” admitted Jean Francois. “You want to go full-speed, you want to hit somebody, but you know you can’t because we have certain rules and nobody has pads on and we’re not trying to hurt anybody.

“OTAs are getting us closer and closer to getting on the field, strapping it up, putting the pads on and competing. We’re competing now, but when you finally get the pads on, that’s when it’ll be top-notch.”

In the mean time, Jean Francois will continue to get his competitive juices flowing by watching his beloved Miami Heat try to extend the Eastern Conference Finals to a seventh game Thursday night.

Jean Francois said he will intently be watching game 6.

“I guarantee a game 7 for the Heat,” Jean Francois said with a blank stare. “I am not playing… The lights are on now, now you gotta’ play. It’s us versus the Celtics, versus the world.”

In his own situation with the 49ers, Jean Francois is looking to get his hands on his own championship ring. And in order to do it, he’ll do whatever the team needs.

“This season,” Jean Francois began, “it’s about helping the team out and trying to get closer and closer to the ultimate goal. Right now, the priority is to help my teammates and win a Super Bowl.”