Whenever Jim Harbaugh has spoken with the media this offseason, he has made a point to reference how high attendance has been for the 49ers workouts. The current three-day minicamp wrapping up tomorrow is mandatory, but all of the previous offseason training activities have been voluntary.
While the 49ers have plenty of players living in the Bay Area, a large number of players reside outside the Bay Area during the offseason. Although football is their job, there is still a certain measure of sacrifice when they elect to stay around Santa Clara in the offseason.
An early example this offseason was Ahmad Brooks. He usually spends his offseason in Virginia with his daughter at his mom's house. In his conference call after signing a new contract in January, Brooks indicated he would be sticking around Santa Clara this offseason:
Is being in Santa Clara right now, is that a departure from your normal offseason routine? Didn't you usually go back to Virginia in the offseason?
"Do I usually go back to Virginia in the offseason?"
Yeah, isn't being here different than what you've normally done in the offseason?
"Yeah, I usually go home in the offseason to my mother's house. I have a daughter out there. So, that's pretty much my main reason why I go home. But I realized that I'm not 23, 24 years old anymore. I'm 28 and a lot of things change over the years. You grow up and you start seeing things from a different light and my career's here in California. So, I really want to make the best for my career and just capitalize on what I've already gained."
For Brooks, this seems like a simple case of maturing and recognizing how much more of a job football is at this point in his career.
Carlos Rogers was asked about offseason workouts and indicated that in years past he has not concerned himself with issues of workout bonuses. Rogers has been sidelined with a calf strain, although he has gotten some limited work in at practice this week:
Q: Is it tough not practicing?
ROGERS: I want to be out there with the guys competing. Football is fun. Actually this is only my second time in eight years even doing a full offseason program. It's something that a lot of older guys really don't go to because it's about learning, kind of doing some of the stuff you did in the season. Especially if you already know the offense and defense, a lot of guys have their own trainer or someone they work with. That's what they do.
Q: So why are you here this offseason?
ROGERS: Being with this team, I said, ‘I'm going to commit to it and be here this offseason.' Regardless of bonus, because I had bonuses in Washington, it doesn't have anything to with that. I just decided to be here with this team and do my offseason program here. It's been good. Our attendance is really good. We're pretty much got everybody except Dashon. That goes into business. (The Niners placed the franchise tag on Goldson this offseason, and the free safety is holding out of a long-term contract.) That's something separate; you have to handle that individually. Other than that it's been really good attendance here. My time in Washington, you'd have guys pop in and do a workout or do a little something. A lot of times guys don't come around the team at all because it's the offseason, so you really have your own training. Here, it's structured around this trainer, this staff, it's about football. People look at it as when it's time for football, it's time for football. A lot of times it starts with minicamp for a lot of people. It's good to have a lot of guys here.
I don't know how much can be made of the "we are family" atmosphere, but I'd like to think some positive can come from it. There have been other reports about how Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs did not attend the Giants Super Bowl ring ceremony nor their visit to the White House. Given that they already have reached the promised land, it would seem easy for them to choose to enjoy the fruits of victory. Instead, they remained in the Bay Area working out with the team.
This follows A.J. Jenkins initially planning on going to his graduation, but then deciding to be in Santa Clara for the rookie minicamp because it was a conflicting date. Is Coach Harbaugh the pied piper when it comes to his players? I suppose it's easy to sell the team philosophy when the team is winning, even at the NFL level.