Members of the 49ers are having to adjust to an offseason program from a far. George Kittle recently adopted a controlled JUGS machine that serves as a robotic quarterback to help while training alone. Kyle Juszczyk underwent Rocky-esque workouts in the snow that featured squats with tree barks and some sledding. Even tight end Ross Dwelley was seen making use of an empty parking lot and using a tree branch to do pull ups.
Offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill is the latest member of the 49ers to reveal creative alternatives to offseason workouts - and he's sought after less conventional assistance in the process.
"My sister and brother-in-law – they've actually been helping me," Brunskill said. "Sometimes as offensive linemen, we take (medicine) balls, and we'll work on pass drills and then someone can throw the med ball at you. And then you can practice your punching and things like that to simulate a defense because those have a little bit of weight behind it. So I've been having them help me with that. And then, of course, I don't have any bags. So sometimes I'll have them hold a med ball and I'll try to do other drills off of that. But they've definitely been very supportive and have helped me the best way they can."
Brunskill's obscure aid comes in an offseason where the offensive lineman will be competing for a starting role. In addition to his family-incorporated workouts, Brunskill has spent the offseason mastering the nuances of Kyle Shanahan's system while honing in on his techniques at right guard.
Following Mike Person's departure earlier this offseason, Brunskill is in competition for San Francisco's vacancy at the right guard position. As it stands, he's in the mix along with recently signed offensive lineman Tom Compton, a product of Shanahan's with the Washington Redskins in 2012 and the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, and versatile fifth-round pick Colton McKivitz for the starting job.
"I've definitely taken a good amount of reps at right guard when I'm practicing by myself," Brunskill added. "But mainly, I'm just ready to be starting at any position and ready to go anywhere and still focusing on all five positions. But I definitely take a few more reps at right guard and then also trying to focus on what I can do to be better at that position. And then what I can do to be better at all five positions as a whole."
Brunskill's versatility worked in the 49ers favor last season. The offensive lineman saw starting snaps at three different positions in 2019. Brunskill started four games at right tackle for Mike McGlinchey and one in place of former left tackle Joe Staley. He also started the final two games of the regular season in place of Person, who dealt with a nagging neck injury towards the back end of the year. His experience as a starter during San Francisco's final stretch of the season served him well on his path to becoming a core member of the 49ers offensive line.
"(It was) definitely huge to play those games at that spot," Brunskill continued. "It gives you more live reps at it. There's a certain point where practice and live reps are definitely completely different just because of the speed and the nature in which you hit a little bit. In practice, you're trying to simulate it the best you can while also trying to take care of your team. So, it sometimes is a little different than when it is in a game. And also our scout team, they do a hell of a job, but they can't always emulate exactly what the defense is doing that we're practicing for each week. So definitely being in the game helps you get more comfortable for what's going on."