As a means to alleviate potential injuries to the incoming rookie class, the San Francisco 49ers are taking a unique, conservative approach to their NFL introductions.
As Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee points out, the 49ers are the only NFL team that is beginning its rookie minicamp on Saturday this weekend. The rest of the teams are starting their camps out earlier, which is the traditional approach.
“What we try to do is minimize the exposure to heavy training early on, try to get them into an acclimation period because we understand that a lot of them haven’t been doing a lot for the last month, month and a half,” general manager Trent Baalke told Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week.
The current CBA doesn’t allow teams a lot of time to acclimate young players to the rigors of this league. Most of the young men coming into camp have been spending their winters doing specialized training for the combine, rather than doing anything resembling actual football. Their bodies aren’t ready for the shock of playing the game again.
Given the freak injuries that have already bit into a couple of rookies (Dante Fowler Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jeff Huerman of the Denver Broncos), what San Francisco is putting into effect this offseason seems like a sound strategy.
The 49ers rookies have all arrived at team facilities at this point, minus first-rounder Arik Armstead, who cannot attend yet due to academic reasons. Per Barrows, they have all been introduced to the team’s strength and conditioning team and have spent plenty of time observing the veterans’ offseason program.
“We’re trying to get them accustomed to how the day goes,” Baalke said. “We’re not going to put anything strenuous in front of them until the weekend. Trying to give them a four- to five-day window just to acclimate them to how we do things.”
The 49ers are no strangers to injuries.
Last season was derailed completely, thanks to an incredible rash of the things, along with the ever-growing rift between former head coach Jim Harbaugh and the teams’s front office. It appears new head coach Jim Tomsula and Baalke, along with likely many others on staff, have been considering a new approach for quite some time.
If the franchise ends up coming out of the offseason with a healthy rookie roster, then it’s safe to assume the rest of the league will take notice and potentially follow suit in the future.