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There has been no time to stop and smell the roses – or even appreciate first-team offseason reps – for Marcus Cromartie.
The second-year cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers has been too busy working to get caught up on the strides he's made since being signed to the team's practice squad on Nov. 18 of last season.
Cromartie's ascent from scout-team cornerback to first-team cornerback at times during OTAs and minicamp has not influenced his approach to the game.
For Cromartie, playing time of any kind, whether first- or third-team, all help him improve at his craft.
"Getting reps is going to make you a better player, especially when you're with the 1s," Cromartie said at the conclusion of minicamp last month. "It's going to have you play at a higher tempo and have you more precise with your communication.
"It definitely gets you prepared for game situations."
With veteran cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright held out for most of minicamp (Brock returned to action on the third day of camp), young defensive backs like Cromartie were enabled to showcase their talent as part of a cornerback-by-committee approach.
Defensive backs coach Tim Lewis also stated that the rotation will likely continue up until the regular season begins.
"They'll show up at training camp and we'll see who's ready to roll," Lewis said. "We'll keep rolling them in and out, and come that first game against Minnesota, we'll see who gets to trot out there first."
Cromartie is one of nine cornerbacks on the roster. Pehaps the biggest difference between he and his competition is the route taken to training camp with the 49ers.
Cromartie went undrafted after earning All-Big Ten honors as a senior at Wisconsin. He did, however, sign onto the San Diego Chargers practice squad in April of 2013. From there, he spent the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad and was eventually called up to San Diego's active roster for the final two games of the season. Cromartie was later released by the Chargers in September of 2014 and was picked up by the Cleveland Browns practice squad for only one day in late October of 2014.
That's how tough it can be to stick in the business of professional football.
Cromartie was signed by San Francisco's practice squad in November and promoted to the active roster a month later for the final three games of the year. Cromartie recorded four tackles and one pass breakup in his only NFL playing time.
Despite his unique route to the Bay Area, Cromartie doesn't spend much time, if any, on looking back at his journey,
"It's a process with everything we do in this business," he said. "You have to live in the moment, and that's what I'm trying to do right now, enjoy the process and not think too far ahead to the first game, or even training camp. Every day I try to get better and focus on the tasks at hand."
The 6-foot, 195-pound corner said consistency has been the focus of his first full offseason with the 49ers.
"Anybody can be good for one day, or for one game," Cromartie said. "It takes a great player to be consistent through the games and through practice, and that's what I'm focused on."
Cromartie said he's also grown tremendously from working with Lewis and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, who expects all of his defenders to understand the responsibilities of the players around them.
Cromartie has learned much more than just his cornerback duties this offseason.
"Mangini has the approach that you learn your position first, and then you learn everyone else's position because you can know how it all fits," Cromartie said. "You're not just out there hearing a call and doing your job. You're hearing the call and then you know what you want to do as a defense based on the call.
"That's why I'm trying to learn my position and the positions around me. I think it'll help us communicate better and it will make the team a lot better."
So while Cromartie has been an active listener and practice performer this offseason, he knows that all the hard work from February to July won't mean much if he can't put it all together when training camp takes place in August.
When asked to share his goals for his month away from the 49ers before camp, Cromartie offered a short and sweet answer:
"It's to not get complacent. When you get to training camp, it's a whole new deal."