The San Francisco 49ers kicked off the first round of off-season workouts Thursday, giving new and returning players their first opportunity to get the Jim Tomsula regime started on the right track.
In the wake of retirements from three key defenders, and a near-complete overhaul of the coaching staff, the new-look 49ers spent their first days of practice getting acclimated and prepared to find an identity as a team.
Tomsula kept the team’s first offseason OTA up-tempo throughout, and told SFBay he liked what he saw:
“I think everybody is getting a lot of great work, and are really going after it … The guys are working hard on their fundamentals, and we’re trying to make sure it carries over to the regular season.”
Part of the identity Tomsula wants for the team is a tough, run oriented squad. Fourth-round draft Mike Davis wasted no time getting dirty, playing very aggressively throughout drills.
Davis told SFBay the football comes naturally, but adjusting to the NFL environment is what he is most focused on during the offseason:
“I’m getting the grasp of it, (but) I’ve got guys like Reggie (Bush), Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter I can ask for questions when I’m learning the playbook … Everything is fast, fast, fast, and we try to get in as many plays as we can.”
Davis wasn’t the new only running back getting adjusted to a new home. Bush looked agile and comfortable running cuts and catching short passes from Colin Kaepernick.
Photos by Trevor Will/SFBay
Bush told SFBay he feels at home playing for the team he grew up rooting for as a kid, and said he is looking forward filling whatever role the team needs of him after fielding punts for the first time in four years.
“Getting out there and catching punts, I didn’t feel like I was missing a beat, or that I had gotten rusty … It’s exciting because it’s another new opportunity for me to get out there and showcase my skills.”
After the 49ers’ wide receiving unit amassed only 12 touchdowns last season, the team took chances to go deep and attack its own defense.
The highlight of the day came when quarterback Colin Kaepernick connected a 50-yard bomb to Quinton Patton against the first-team defense. Patton split the safeties, and found himself wide open for a clean touchdown.
Patton, who played with the scout team for much of last season, told SFBay his big play was hopefully the first of many this season:
“Perfect throw, perfect catch, perfect touchdown. I had to hit them with the Tootsie Roll (dance)… I can’t say it’s my time yet, but I’m coming. Play time is over with, so I’m coming.”
Kaepernick’s throw, which hit Patton in stride, was a breath of fresh air after he dedicated the offseason to refining his play, and working on his accuracy.
Under new defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, the defense appeared to be a step behind on the play. Veteran safety Antoine Beteha told SFBay the defense is learning Mangini’s approach to attacking offenses, and said he expects the team to get a better grasp as the offseason rolls along:
“All defensive coordinators have their own thing. Coach Mangini, he likes to cause confusion, and keeping offenses on their heels … That’s what OTAs are for, getting in the playbook and getting out there in front of the offense and doing different things.”
Players akined Tomsula to his practice, describing him as charismatic and uptempo throughout the day. After getting off to a rough start with the media following his hiring, the new head coach showed a much more comfortable and charming side with the media today.
When asked about the process behind football decisions, Tomsula told SFBay there will be no grey area about who to blame if things go wrong:
“I’ll say it one way, when you want to point a finger to blame, just point them all at me … Nobody has full autonomy on this team. I’ve got a comment in offense, defense, special teams and player engagement … So if it’s on the field and you don’t like it, just come see one guy.”
After wrapping up the first set of OTAs, the 49ers have about a week of off time before the players report for the second set from May 27 through May 29.
Carlos Hyde did not participate, but Tomsula said he his working through a non-major leg injury. … Arik Armstead did not attend, as he is still under the academic calendar at Oregon. … Former Rugby star Jarryd Hayne showed good hands throughout the day, but showed awkwardness when performing cut blocks in drills. … Darnell Dockett and NaVorro Bowman did not attend.