The transition into the NFL hasn’t been the smoothest for 49ers first-round draft pick Joshua Garnett.
The 6-foot-5, 321-pound rookie missed all but the final three days of OTAs with San Francisco due to an NFL rule that stipulates seniors cannot join their new team until the current class has graduated. Then, along with the Chargers’ Joey Bossa, Garnett stood as just one of two draft picks to remain unsigned as late as Friday afternoon.
But Garnett’s agent and the 49ers struck a deal late Friday night, making sure the 22-year old Stanford product would be a full participant when his team hit the field on Sunday morning. Garnett had been the last of 11 49ers 2016 draft picks to reach a deal.
Despite toeing the deadline to report, Garnett said on Saturday that he was ready to put the transitional hurdles behind him, and help his new team succeed on the field:
“My number one goal was to be here and be with my teammates and be able to come in … I knew I wanted to be here from the start and to just be around my teammates. That was my main priority, getting in with everybody else. … I’m just excited to kind of get that fresh start, and to kind of be with everyone from day one.”
Garnett’s full participation in camp is significant on multiple levels for a team that finished tied for second-most sacks allowed in the NFL in 2015.
After investing draft picks to trade back into the first round to grab Garnett, he is expected to be a heavy favorite to win the starting position at right guard. Garnett’s availability to report to camp on time is crucial to his development while learning head coach Chip Kelly’s system as quickly as possible.
Not only will Garnett have to learn Kelly’s system, but he’ll also have to learn how to play alongside Anthony Davis — or perhaps another contender such as Eric Pears or Trent Brown — at the tackle position.
With both Garnett and Davis in camp, the 49ers may be lining up two first-rounders on the right hand side of the line that was considered the 49ers Achilles heel last year.
But for a human biology major at Stanford, learning about his peers is just part of the process:
“You’re just gonna gonna wanna work with people and work extra after practice, and really ask questions from the older guys and really emulate people like Joe Staley or Zane Beadles, the guys who have been around for a while. The guys who kind of know what they’re doing. Just sit back and be quiet and listen to them and see what they’re doing and figure out how they’re building that chemistry so you can kind of emulate and lead by their example.”
Don’t let Garnett’s words fool you. Despite having a mild-mannered and intellectual disposition off the field, the rookie plans on being anything but a casual observer when he puts on the pads with his teammates for the first time on Sunday.
“I was always the guy who would try to bring the juice to practice. Sometimes it would get a little out of control, sometimes people would get their feelings hurt a little bit. But it wasn’t me going out and starting fights or anything like that”
I definitely feel, as a rookie, you have to know your place, you have to kind of know when you can liven up practice, or when you can just sit back and kind of work on technique and let the older guys take reign.But there definitely is a time and place for all that. I definitely don’t think I’m gonna back down from people just because you’re a first-year rookie.”
The 49ers will find out how much juice Garnett can bring to the team when they strap on the pads for tomorrow’s first practice of training camp.