Brandon Aiyuk had to wait nearly two years to experience a true offseason with the 49ers and he has made the most of this round of in-person OTAs, minicamp and the time off, building a stronger bond with newly named starting quarterback Trey Lance.
The duo trained together in southern California and got to know each other outside of the team's offseason programming. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch even jumped in on the team bonding. The 49ers GM joined Aiyuk and Lance for a hill run followed by a lunch with Shanahan and a dip in the Pacific Ocean.
"The way he came back for the offseason it was awesome. He was so prepared and one of the leaders of our team," Shanahan said. "It continued into the offseason. You know, some guys just hang around the quarterback so that people write articles about it and they can get brownie points. That's not Aiyuk's style. I like where he was before he left and the fact that he was with Trey for so long makes a lot of sense because he seems pretty determined."
"This is my second time training with Trey," Aiyuk said. "He said I used to never talk to him. I used to give him dirty looks apparently…I don't know what he's talking about, but this second year, we got to stay in the same house together with a couple other people and just hang out by the fire, talk, really just get to know who he is and him getting to know who I am."
Check out some of the best images as 49ers players arrived at the SAP Performance Facility for training camp.
Aiyuk's sophomore season got off to a slow start and ramped up after a breakout game in Week 9 versus the Arizona Cardinals. No. 11 caught six passes for 89 yards and a touchdown and never recorded less than 50 receiving yards the rest of the year. Aiyuk closed out his second season just shy of the 1,000-yard receiving mark and ranked third on the team in total receiving yards (961). He understands that in order to continue developing into a top ranked receiver a good relationship with QB No. 1 is key.
"Being down there a couple weeks and working hard, putting in hours grinding together and hanging out, just chilling afterwards, it's cool," Aiyuk said. "It's a great thing. That's the quarterback, we've got to be connected, on the field and off."
Aiyuk and Lance did their best to recreate on-the-field work in their offseason workouts. The pair ran routes, practiced play-action passes and deep throws and followed a schedule similar to that of a traditional training camp. After logging hours with Lance over the past few months, Aiyuk has seen how the second-year QB can add new elements to the 49ers complex offense.
"You have to be ready on any play just because it's a possibility that you might get the ball even though we haven't thrown that ball in that spot in the year's past," Aiyuk said. "He extends the field. He makes those safeties back up, get out there pedal fast and I think that's great just because it will give us all the underneath stuff that we love to throw as well."
In the first day of open practice, Lance went 9-of-11 during the scrimmage portion of camp and Aiyuk caught four passes, including one connection with Lance.