SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Not satisfied with what the 49ers got from Deebo Samuel last season?
You’re not alone.
“It was awful,” Samuel said Tuesday. ‘I was awful . . . in every way.”
Samuel offered that harsh self-assessment on the first day of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp, which continues Wednesday and ends Thursday with a family gathering and marks the end of the offseason until training camp begins in July.
Samuel, 27, was working off to the side and did not participate in team drills, 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 sessions. Plenty of top tier 49ers were essentially spectators, including defensive end Nick Bosa, left tackle Trent Williams and linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.
Attendance at the voluntary sessions as been sporadic for Samuel, although he’s getting in much more work than he did a year ago when he was essentially absent and a “hold-in” while a three-year contract extension worth a maximum of $73.5 million was being negotiated.
Samuel stayed silent through much of that process, erasing 49ers’ logos from his social media for a time while reports surfaced of his discontent — with none of the stories actually quoting the player.
The statistical dropoff in 2022 from the 2021 season paved the way to his contract extension was considerable.
In one of the more explosive seasons in club history on a franchise which counts Jerry Rice among its alumni, Samuel caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards, averaged 18.2 yards per reception and scored six touchdowns.
In a bit of inspiration from coach Kyle Shanahan, Samuel also rushed for 365 yards on 59 carries, averaging 6.2 yards per attempt, and scored eight more touchdowns.
With Samuel out of the picture until getting his contract settled last season, he never reached his 2021 form. In 13 games (he missed three with an MCL sprain), Samuel had 56 receptions for 632 yards receiving, averaging 11.3 yards pre catch, and 232 yards.
Samuel’s yards from scrimmage dropped from 1,770 yards to 864 and his touchdowns from 14 to 5.
Shanahan isn’t once to mince words, and Samuel said he and the head coach discussed 2022 in a recent film session.
“Me and Kyle had a long meeting the other day,” Samuel said. “We talked about it, we put it behind us.”
Samuel said the tape showed he was “sluggish” and he plans to “reflect on that, and (I) don’t want to put nothing like that on tape again.”
The contract and whatever transpired before Samuel actually signed had a negative impact.
“A lot of stuff was going on,” Samuel said. “My main focus this year is to get back to the summer what I did in 2021, not even the season, getting back in the groove, getting back into the routine.”
Rather than attack each practice like Christian McCaffrey, Samuel plans on building up a head of steam before late July. And Shanahan didn’t see the sense in pushing Samuel physically during the first week of June.
“He hasn’t been here and we want our players to be ready to go,” Shanahan said. “With him being away we just don’t feel he’s quite in that right spot. We’ve got some time until camp and we’re not going to rush him into something he’s not ready for.”
While Samuel had his moments in 2022, he never felt as he did the previous year as the dominant player in the offense.
“I was kind of behind the eight-ball a little bit as far as being in my routine I would normally be in, getting ready to play,” Samuel said. “I had distractions going on. I kind of felt it but was trying to will my way to help the team in every aspect possible.”
Tight end George Kittle said the “awful” analysis was “Deebo’s take on himself” and not necessarily a feeling that was shared in the locker room.
“I love Deebo. He does a ton for us. I know there are plays he wishes he had back. We all do,” Kittle said. “When Deebo is very motivated, he’s a fantastic football player. I won’t say he wasn’t motivated last year, but I definitely think he has a little more fire in him this year.
“If Deebo’s trying to be better, that’ good or the Niners.”
Bosa, who is due his own mega-deal before training camp, said self-criticism is vital to staying at the top.
“Whenever you’re at the top of your profession, if you’re not looking to get better, you’re not going to be the best for very long,” Bosa said. “It’s good to look back and appreciate and have gratitude for what you’ve accomplished, but there’s a balance between being complacent and giving yourself credit . . . I try to give myself credit but I don’t want to take away from that competitive drive because that’s why I’m here.”
Bosa unconcerned about contract
Bosa is in line for a contract which could make him the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL which in term of average salary is a distinction that belongs to the Rams’ Aaron Donald ($31.366 million).
Asked about his confidence level of getting something done before camp, Bosa said, “Pretty high. I think I’m pretty confident about that.”
Bosa is currently in the books for $17,859 million, the figure of his fifth-year option. The 49ers could actually drop that number in terms of the cap 2023 with a long-term deal.
The 49ers are fine with Bosa, as is his usual practice, being on his own training regimen.
“Same as every year, `How you doing? How’s the workout been going? How’s Florida? How’s the boat? You look tanned. Your legs still look big. What are going to do today?’ He’ll probably be in the weight room.”
Hargrave makes first appearance
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave participated in his first practice with the 49ers after signing a four-year contract worth a maximum of $84 million after starring for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He just got here so we’re just getting to know him,” Shanahan said. “We’re going to be slow with him with him not being around through Phase 1 and 2. We’re not going to throw him in to anything. My impressions are he seems like the same guy we were talking to on the phone. It seems like he’s been working out and hoping he spends this week to get acclimated to what we do and the way we do it.”
Hargrave’s presence will make for a dilemma in terms of double teams with Bosa also in the mix.
“We think of him as one of the best interior guys in the league, especially rushing the passer and to have him our side is going to be a huge addition for us,” Bosa said.
Sam Darnold got work with the first team and Trey Lance with the second team, although Shanahan said those opportunities have been alternated between the two. Darnold had a nice downfield strike to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and Lance has has appeared more confident and on-target with his passing than at any point since he joined the 49ers.
Brock Purdy made an appearance on an adjacent field to work with a trainer but did no throwing. Shanahan said there are no updates where Purdy is concerned, only that he remains on track to participate at training camp at some point and potentially be available Week 1 against Pittsburgh.
Brandon Allen has offered a veteran third option until Purdy can take the field.
As far as a depth chart, Shanahan wasn’t biting.
“All this stuff gives these guys a chance to have a chance to compete in training camp,” Shanahan said. “That’s what you provide all this stuff for is to give guys a chance to learn the offense, get the timing so when they go to training camp they’re ready to compete and that’s where I see the competition starting.”
— Veteran defensive lineman Darryl Williams was added to the roster. He has played 38 games with Buffalo, Carolina and Seattle over four seasons. To make room, undrafted free agent receiver Shae Wyatt was released.
“That’s where we wanted our (90-man roster) for camp,” Shanahan said. “We were a little heavy at receiver.”
— Place kicker Jake Moody, a third-round pick, missed one field goal attempt from 43 yards and also drilled a low line drive that somehow cleared the line and didn’t come close.