He wasn't active for any regular season or postseason games for the San Francisco 49ers, but it wasn't hard to miss Joe Looney getting in a pregame sweat before every game.
The team's fourth-round pick in 2012 did an extensive pregame workout to duplicate what he'd face in a real NFL game. Along with practice squad linemen Al Netter and Kenny Wiggins, the three players were put through a game simulation from offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno.
"Every rep is a rep, whether it's against air or it's against a bag or somebody standing in front of you," Looney said. "It's always good to get those reps and make sure you understand the game mentally."
The 6-foot-3, 309-pound guard out of Wake Forest was rehabbing a Lisfranc foot injury to start the season. After his injury healed, Looney was inactive for every game in 2012. The guard, however, found the pregame workouts to be beneficial in his development as an interior lineman.
Looney played left guard at Wake Forest, but worked at both guard spots and at center as a scout team lineman throughout his rookie season with the 49ers. During his pregame work, Looney snapped the ball at center.
It was an important learning experience for the four-year starter in college. The 49ers coaches would call out defensive fronts and the three linemen would run San Francisco's gameplan plays against air.
When the games started, Looney closely watched the actions of Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin and Alex Boone, San Francisco's starting interior linemen.
Looney kept a close eye on Goodwin all season. The rookie picked up valuable tips from the 12-year veteran, who went to a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints.
"It was definitely great to have a year to watch Jonathan Goodwin," Looney said. "He's one of the best in the league at snapping and getting his hands on guys. Being able to learn from him and practice it, I'm definitely improving."
Looney is back to full strength and is eager to assert himself as an option on gamedays. The second-year lineman is confident he's in great shape to compete for a gameday role.
"I think I'm improving," Looney said. "I'm trying to come in every day and work hard. I'm doing anything I can to benefit this team."
Looney continues to learn from his veteran teammates and believes the line group as a whole will be a competitive positon group for the rest of the offseason.
In Looney's mind, the battles for gameday roles will not be contentious.
"I think we just all want to see each other get better every day," Looney explained. "We're going to do whatever we can to make the next man better. We're a family. We're going to compete, but we're going to help each other out the same way."
That being said, Looney wants to keep striving towards a bigger role in 2013.
"Everybody wants to play and I think our job as players is to show the coaches we're ready whenever they need us," he said.
To prove that Looney is getting back to his old self, he switched uniform numbers. Looney went from No. 66 back to his college number, No. 78, to reflect his new outlook for his sophomore season in San Francisco.