When Jim Harbaugh met with the team at the beginning of training camp, he gave some speech (probably) along the lines of "visualize your goals." Classic motivation speaker stuff from the NFL’s best Matt Foley impersonator (I’m sure Harbaugh lives in a very nice house and not a van, besides there aren’t any "rivers" on the Peninsula). Players lap that kind of stuff up, especially rookies experiencing the NFL for the first time. So it should come as no surprise that the most enthusiastic rookie ever embraces visualization with extreme gusto.
In case you forgot, Quinton Patton was sent home on his fist day in San Francisco. Not because of any behavioral issues, but because he wasn’t supposed to be there. In fact he was not supposed to be there for almost two more weeks. That kid, bless his heart, was so excited to get to work that he booked his own flight to San Francisco without telling anyone. Finally, he called the 49ers facility when he landed to let them know he’d be there soon. His enthusiasm was met with a resounding "ahhh! Don’t come here" (I picture the staffer that fielded that call doing something like this. If he had shown up in Santa Clara that day he would not have been able to participate in the rookie camp just two weeks later. Luckily, he had booked a round trip ticket (I hope, that part is still unclear).
So Patton is enthusiastic, like I was the first day of school, before I realized the system was fixed and I was doomed to a life of mediocrity. If Patton was that enthusiastic about rookie camp I cannot imagine the rush he got for full-blown training camp.
As camp geared up Patton looked to make his mark. Then, disaster! Like so many before him he actually tried to catch one of Colin Kaepernick’s passes, something you should never ever do; especially when the pass is prefaced with Kaepernick turning to Colt McCoy and saying "haha, watch this." The ball fired off the QB’s hand at 178.5 mph (probably) and it tore Patton’s finger clean off, literally the entire thing. His digit landed in the ice bath occupied by Mike Iupati and the ball landed somewhere in San Jose. Iupati shouted "YES! FREE HOT DOG" with glee before the finger was wrested away from him by an incredibly brave team trainer.
With the receiving corps already thinned, after losing Michael Crabtree, the coaching staff was concerned. Luckily the brilliant team doctor managed to re-attach the finger with some weird voodoo magic, but Patton wouldn’t be able to catch any passes unless the 49ers brought back Ken Dorsey.
Patton was unconcerned and he went up to Greg Roman to let him know "don’t worry coach I can visualize success" (again, not sure if he actually said this). Roman considered the bold plan, gave him a high five, on his good hand, and said "let’s do this!" (I’m on fire with the fake quotes today). So Patton took the field with a cyborg finger and a blue jersey.
When our intrepid reporter, Jimmy Olsen, asked Roman what he told Patton about playing a position that requires you to catch footballs when you cannot, he said "just stay away from it. Catch it with your eyes" (first legitimate quote of the article; seriously, Roman actually said this). Patton, being the enthusiastic overachiever he is, was determined to be the best "visual" catcher in the league. Now he is looking to overtake Roy E. Williams as the record holder for catching the ball with his eyes and not his hands.
Later, Olsen pressed Roman on his performance and when asked how many footballs he had actually caught Roman, with a straight face, said "visually, a lot" (again, this is an ACTUAL quote). So, Patton soldiers on using his eyes and not his hands like so few before him. Everything seemed perfect until Scott Tolzien accidentally threw a ball in his direction, breaking his streak. Like a short-stop botching a routine ground ball during a perfect game, Tolzien was punished…severely. I won’t go into too much detail on what the punishment was but I will say that Mike Iupati calls him his "rubber ducky" now.
In conclusion…hmmm, I guess I don’t really have any conclusions. I should end this by saying "you can’t make this stuff up," except I did; like 90% of this is untrue. However, the Roman quotes about Patton "visually" catching balls is 100% true. I guess the biggest take-away from this is that Patton is a uniquely enthusiastic and driven player who will make an impact in this league… And when people say Kaepernick is putting more "touch" on his passes, they mean "he’s dismembering fewer receivers."