Levi's® Stadium was buzzing on Thursday afternoon as rookies piled into the building for the first of their three-day camp event. The group reporting was made up of 2023 draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents and tryout players, all of whom were eager to make a good first impression on the 49ers.
While it may have been day one at HQ, it's not many of these rookies' first day on the jobs. Several of San Francisco's draft picks shared their growing familiarity with their coaches, teammates and the organization through all the communication and online meetings they've been a part of since draft weekend.
Linebacker Dee Winters said the group chat invite came shortly after being selected in the sixth round.
"Coach Sorenson didn't waste any time, put us all in a group chat," Winters said. "We got on Zoom and talked with each other, got to know each other, and it felt like we already knew each other for years. I'm definitely going to lean on those guys, and I hope they lean on me as well."
Wide receiver Ronnie Bell got his big welcome from former Michigan teammate and current 49ers corner Ambry Thomas. He was one the first calls to come through after Bell's seventh round selection.
"Another familiar face is something that is definitely just warm," Bell said. "I've never been out here before (Santa Clara). He'll definitely be someone, I will be in his pocket to learn the ways over here."
Bell will also be learning the ways of the 49ers from Thomas on the field, battling it out in practice together like they did during their time in Ann Arbor. The third-year cornerback keyed him into the high expectations of wideouts in head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.
"I remember one of the first things Ambry said to me was that I was going to have to be able to block," Bell said jokingly. "That's something that I love. Something that I'm excited about, just holding not just receivers but everybody to such a high standard. I think that will be a good thing and fun thing to be a part of."
Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle has taken on welcoming committee responsibilities for fifth-round pick Brayden Willis. Kittle was someone Willis pointed out as a player he's looking forward to suiting up with, so as you can imagine, the anticipation for the start of camp has been building.
"We've had a lot of interactions, just texting. I saw him today," Willis commented. "Great guy, great human, great player obviously, I'm excited to learn from him."