Three words sum up the training camp and preseason experience of San Francisco 49ers rookie Jaquiski Tartt.
"Just currently grinding."
The Samford product, whom the 49ers selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, shared unique insight into his first NFL camp. When he's not getting second- and third-team reps at safety, the 6-foot-1, 221-pound newcomer has acclimated himself on Thomas McGaughey Jr.'s special teams units. Tartt said he's constantly competing with second-year safety L.J. McCray to see who can record the most tackles on special teams.
Like McCray, Tartt was a busy man on both fronts in San Francisco's preseason opener against the Houston Texans. Tartt recorded six tackles (five solo), including a tackle-for-loss on a well-timed safety blitz.
But what was the small-school safety's biggest takeaway from his NFL debut? It wasn't so much the physicality of the game. It was something else.
"It was the speed of the game," Tartt said. "Going out there and scrimmaging in camp, I thought my first preseason game was going to be like that. But when I got into the game, it was a lot different. I feel like I adjusted towards the end."
The stats, and the impressive timing of his blitz, back that sentiment up.
"I was just playing football at a certain point," Tartt said of his eye-catching tackle in the backfield. "The gap opened, and I just went to the ball to make a play."
Another reason Tartt has been able to adjust from Samford to San Francisco has been consistent advice from veteran defensive backs like Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea and Craig Dahl. The rookie said the trio of experienced 49ers safeties continue to be a reliable sounding board throughout camp.
"I go to either E-Reid, Bethea or Craig," Tartt said. "It doesn't really matter who it is, they're willing to help."
So what has been the biggest takeaway from players with a combined 19 seasons of experience in professional football?
San Francisco has a rivalry with Dallas that dates back to 1960 and includes one of the most memorable plays of all time, "The Catch".
"Taking care of my body," Tartt said. "A-B was telling me I need to get in the weight room every day and take care of my shoulders because I'm going to be using them a lot. And that's something that has come out to be true."
Tartt hasn't been shy about throwing around his body on defense and special teams. However, the rookie has been smart about using his physical gifts. Tartt also said increased practice reps over the past month has allowed him to increase his on-field confidence and comfort level.
"It's become a lot more natural because I'm getting more reps and I know what I'm doing more," he said. "The more time you get on the field in practice, the better you can get at playing the defense and the faster you can play."
Tartt gets another chance to showcase his growth when the 49ers welcome a familiar rival, the Dallas Cowboys, to Levi's® Stadium for a Week 2 preseason contest.
The rookie said it's a great opportunity to face a playoff-caliber team in his first home game in the NFL.
"I'm really excited," said Tartt who has good friends on the Cowboys in cornerbacks Corey White and Byron Jones. "It's going to be my second game, but at the same time, I'm really focused. I'm approaching it like I can show the coaches I know what to do and I'm ready to step in whenever my name is called."