Quarterback Sam Darnold has five years of NFL experience under his belt, so it's interesting to hear how San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan described the veteran QB's approach to his first offseason with his new team.
"He's coming here acting like he's learning everything from scratch, which he is, and trying to act like a rookie in that way because it is all new to him," Shanahan said. "He doesn't want to make any assumptions, and he's been awesome in Phase 1 and Phase 2, trying to do techniques he's not used to and things like that.
"It's been cool that he put the work in in those two phases and that he's been able to use some of it here (most recent practices)."
It's been a minute since Darnold entered the league, but his "rookie" eagerness to learn Shanahan's complex offensive scheme and fully immerse himself with his new squad has been apparent. The quarterback has been training in Santa Clara this offseason and has been spotted bonding with teammates at a Golden State Warriors game during his downtime.
"Learning a new system is always a challenge in itself, but at the same time, it's pretty fun," Darnold said. "Just learning football and hearing the way Kyle talks about some things, (Brian) Griese as well and just the other guys, Brock Purdy and Trey Lance being in it, Brandon Allen as well."
San Francisco is Darnold's third stop since he was drafted third overall by the New York Jets in 2018. He spent a total of three seasons in New York before being traded to the Carolina Panthers in time for the 2021 season. In 2022, he went 4-2 in his six starts, completing 82-of-140 pass attempts for 1,143 yards and seven touchdowns.
As he dives into an entirely new playbook, Darnold's earned praise from his head coach for finding that balance of youthful energy while still maintaining his veteran presence during offseason training.
"I met Sam when he came out of college interviewing him in Indy," Shanahan said. "Even then, he seemed like he had a veteran presence, just the way he carries himself whether he's in a football building or whoever his peers are off the field.
"He seems almost like the same guy I met five years ago. He is a little bit more of a veteran being in a couple places, but Sam's come in here, to me, being the same guy he's always been."
Following the team's first open OTA workout, Darnold spoke more about how he's remained grounded through the changes he's undergone during his first five seasons in the NFL.
"I think it really just stems from never changing who you are," Darnold said. "I need to continue to get better as a quarterback and all those things, but it's really just having a good family, having those people to lean on and a really tight friend group circle that I have from back home, from college and people that I met in New York and Charlotte as well.
"It's just keeping that tight circle really close, that friend group that you have and obviously a really close family and that's kind of helped me along the way."