Though the NFL Draft was held just last weekend, this year's new crop of 49ers won't have long to enjoy the jubilation of being drafted. This weekend they will get their first dose of the NFL and a taste test of what strength and conditioning coaches Johnny Parker and Duane Carlisle expect from their players during a three day mini-camp.
"From our perspective, we do very little during mini-camp," said Parker. "We pretty much take a back seat. Coach Nolan will talk to the rookies about the importance that he places on off-season conditioning and how important it is to be strong and be in shape, and other than that, they're here to practice."
Parker and Carlisle will however have some time carved out for them to meet with the rookies to gauge their experience with conditioning programs.
"We ask them about what they're accustomed to," said Parker. "Have they ever been asked to do some of the things that are similar to what we do? If so, can they get back to doing those types of things?"
For many of the rookies, they have not been asked to do "those types of things" for quite some time. With the NFL Scouting Combine playing such a large role in a player's draft stock, their focus has shifted to 40-yard dash times and reps of bench press.
"They've been going to these combine camps and getting ready for the drills that they had to do there," said Carlisle. "When they get here, they will be practicing at a much higher tempo than they're used to. At the same time, there's a lot that they have to process as far as learning the play book. They will be very fatigued this weekend."
Hopefully, that won't be the case for the returning players since the last six weeks have focused solely on their physical improvement.
"We're into our seventh week of training and we'd like to think they've improved their football conditioning, football speed, football explosiveness and power through all the work we're doing in the weight room," said Carlisle. "We think that the guys will be in good shape this coming weekend when they're on the field and that they're recovering well between plays. We practice at a really high tempo so our focus, when it comes to the movement side of things, is to replicate that in training. That way when they get to mini-camp they're not impacted by fatigue and they can concentrate on what the coaches are asking them to do."
That will be less difficult for the veterans than the rookies, who must adjust both physically and mentally over the weekend. Their transition will not stop on Sunday however, as most of the rookies (contingent upon league rules involving their respective dates of graduation) will return on May 16th for three weeks of training before the start of organized team activities (OTAs).
According to Parker, it won't take long to assess whether these rookies have what it takes to achieve greatness.
"We look for players who want rings, who want to be champions," said Parker. "If a player helps his team to a championship, then the recognition, the adulation and the money, they come. If he's in it for all the recognition, adulation and the money, chances are he won't get either."
After three years of drafting team players, Carlisle and Parker will likely found ring seekers in this latest group of rookies.