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49ers Stress Accountability on Day 1 of 2017 Offseason Program

Everybody is eager to turn the page from 2016. A 2-14 record will do that. But there were still lessons to be learned from the disappointing season.

What went wrong?

There's one specific area that the San Francisco 49ers will stress in 2017: Accountability. Every player and coach who addressed the media on Monday used that buzzword as the team began its offseason program.

Kyle Shanahan batted leadoff. He's one of the individuals expected to help spark a turnaround in San Francisco. That starts with culture, something Shanahan and John Lynch have stressed since they arrived. But try as they might, the new regime's desired culture change won't take hold unless the players in the locker room buy in as well.

"You're trying to build a culture here and put your stamp on things and show the standard of what you want," Shanahan started, "(but) coaches can talk until they're blue in the face about what they want, but it's all just coach talk – it's not really real until the players do that."

Day 1 brought an encouraging sign. The 49ers had perfect attendance on Monday as every player showed up for the first full team meeting and fitness test of the new era.

"When the players hold each other accountable, when the players have a certain standard that they go to, whenever a guy is slacking and the players get on him before a coach does, that's when you have something special," Shanahan explained. "We're trying to bring in guys who fit that standard."

Three prominent names on the roster all agreed.

Joe Staley told reporters at the end of last season that he wanted to take a more proactive leadership role in the locker room going forward. The most tenured player on the team usually prefers a lead by example approach, but in what will be his 11th NFL season in the Bay Area, Staley knows the 49ers young roster will lean on him to be more vocal.

"I'm going to challenge myself to do that a lot more – speak up when it's uncomfortable and get more comfortable with being uncomfortable," the left tackle said. "But it's not something you can go out and force. It grows organically. I feel like I've earned the reputation as a guy who works his butt off, … but I can challenge myself to be a little bit more vocal this season."

NaVorro Bowman will have a similar responsibility as an equally respected member of the 49ers locker room. First things first, Bowman is nearly back to full-strength after suffering an Achilles tear in 2016. He participated in all aspects of Monday's fitness test and is encouraged that he'll be one hundred percent in short order.

But he, too, recognized that things need to be different in 2017.

"I think guys have to understand that we are pros and that we have to be accountable to one another on and off the field," Bowman said.

The responsibility trickles down to even the youngest members of the club. DeForest Buckner had a standout rookie season in 2016. He posted six sacks and 73 tackles as a Day 1 starter in San Francisco. Those numbers earned Buckner a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America 2016 All-Rookie Team.

Now in his second season, the newest cornerstone of the franchise acknowledged his part in revamping San Francisco's culture.

"There's going to be a lot more accountability this season," Buckner said. "If guys aren't doing it right, we've got to call him out on it. This is our job. Nobody liked the feeling we had last year going 2-14. The only way we get to where we want to be is to hold each other accountable."

The 49ers will have two weeks of workouts before voluntary minicamp on April 25-27. If Monday is any indication, the word "voluntary" is irrelevant. Every player is already back at HQ. There's work to be done and not a moment to waste.

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