With make-ready work taking place at 49ers headquarters for the team’s New Santa Clara Stadium site, bulldozers, excavators and just about every type of construction equipment has seemingly made its way down 4949 Centennial Blvd.
In the backyard of the team’s training facility, a similar stream of work is taking place in the form of large groups of players utilizing outdoor training equipment weeks before the start of the team’s offseason strength program.
“It just feels good to get back,” tight end
It’s hard to ever question Walker’s team-first mentality. After all, Walker made a remarkable return to the field in the 2012 playoffs, four weeks removed from suffering a broken jaw in a Week 16 win over Seattle.
So it came as no surprise to see Walker’s trademark grin inside the 49ers locker room among veterans and a number of players looking to improve on their rookie campaigns. Walker worked out in the afternoon, shared a nice conversation with longtime teammate
“With an injury like I had and to come back the way I did, it was important for me to overcome something like that,” Walker explained. “For me, I was able to show my team I do care. I could’ve sat out and got paid for going to the playoffs, but I chose to heal quickly, do everything the doctor told me to be able to play in the playoff game.”
Walker returned to the NFC title game and caught two passes for 36 yards, including a 29-yard reception which stood as the team’s second-longest passing play from scrimmage in San Francisco’s 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants.
“Being that it was my first playoff game with the team I’ve been on since I was drafted, I wanted to help the organization by being there,” Walker stressed. “I feel like I accomplished a goal by having the injury I had and being able to overcome it and be able to play within four weeks.”
Now, Walker feels obligated to be back at team headquarters where he can train with teammates and continue building camaraderie.
The 6-foot, 242-pound versatile tight end wasn’t the only player utilizing the team’s outdoor weight room which was installed prior to the 2011 season.
Several of the 49ers rookies from last season have been training together this offseason with a consistent group of veterans attending the sessions.
“That’s easy to do when you make a run at the NFC Championship,” explained fullback
Miller remarked that the sessions have been more relaxed and “kind of quiet.” According to the 6-foot-2, 248-pound converted college defensive end, the training involves lifting and running for players looking to get a head start on the offseason program that begins on April 16.
“I’m just trying to get my beach workouts in, get nice for summer time,” Miller added with a slight chuckle.
Besides getting their bodies ready for their second NFL seasons, young players can get their minds right as well.
As Coach Jim Harbaugh has often stressed, players make their best improvements in between their first and second NFL seasons. With the case of quarterback
“You can really focus on what you need strength-wise to do to get ready for the season now as opposed to just trying to impress teams,” Kaepernick said. “You don’t really know where you’re going, what type of offense you’re going to be running. It makes it easier to focus on training for what you’re going to be doing.”
Players might enjoy the relaxed workout environment going on at team headquarters, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying to get the most out of the lifting and running.
“We’re doing things we’ve been doing, just trying to increase the intensity because you have time to rest your body now,” Kaepernick said. “You don’t have to worry about playing games so you can do a few different things, but there’s a lot of carryover from the season.”
Walker sees his younger teammates taking to the offseason process the right way, just how professional players should.
“Seeing where we got to and not being able to have OTAs or minicamps in their first year I think that motivated the young guys to work hard,” Walker said. “This is a good start for them to be here early and get the mindset that this is how it’s supposed to be every year.
“For them to be here, it shows they’re dedicated to the program.”
Walker, himself, took his own commitment to a new level this offseason. Prior to working out in Santa Clara, Walker spent time working with a trainer in Florida who specialized in blocking technique.
“I’m just trying to improve my craft,” Walker explained. “I just wanted to clean up my technique and make sure my feet are level and I’m grounded when I’m blocking somebody. It’s just little stuff to improve my game and make me a better player.”
Walker’s overall talents should also improve based on the moves made by the team in free agency this offseason. The additions of wide receivers
“Randy Moss is a Hall of Fame receiver and will go down in history as one of the best,” Walker said. “Just to have him on our team and to be able to work with him and pick his brain a little bit, I think that’s going to be big for our offense.”
Adding receivers to the mix was certainly welcomed by Kaepernick, too.
“That’s very exciting,” the 6-foot-4, 230-pound signal caller said. “I think we do have a lot of weapons, we’re bringing in a lot of weapons and everybody needs to keep working hard and we should have another great season, hopefully a better one.”
Whether the 49ers improve on last year’s 13-3 regular season record and NFC West title remains a work in progress. However, the team knows they’ll at least look different when trying to advance further into the postseason.
Many players followed Tuesday’s NFL uniform unveiling which showcased the league’s new partnership with Nike.
“That’s the talk,” Walker said with a grin. “I’ve been seeing it on Twitter and Facebook. People asked me about the new uniforms and I think they look sweet. Nike has always made good uniforms for colleges. It’s probably going to be a different look, but I think that’s going to make them even sweeter.
“It’s 2012 now so we had to switch it up a little bit,” Walker continued. “That’s what Nike does, they go with what year we’re in.”
Nike gear worn by the players won’t hit the practice fields until after the 2012 NFL Draft which starts on April 26, but for now, players like Miller can pay attention to which NFL newcomers joins their team in 2012.
“I’m definitely going to watch it,” said Miller, a seventh-round selection out of the University of Central Florida. “I’m excited to see what we do and also, I went back to Orlando on Wednesday and watched (UCF’s) pro day and I’m excited for a couple of those guys to get their chance in the NFL.
“Hopefully some good things happen for them and maybe some UCF guys end up here.”