NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco spoke to San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne to talk about Emmanuel Sanders, what motivates Bourne, and how Bourne is preparing for this upcoming season. Bourne received a second-round level tender from the 49ers last week as a restricted free agent. At some point, I’d expect the two sides to work out a long-term extension. Bourne’s energy is infectious, and he seems like the type of player that every organization could use. Here is Bourne on receiving second-round tender:
“Just thrilled, man, and thankful for the Niners still believing in me after [three] years now. Even believing in me for year four, and just ready to attack it. It sucks that our OTAs are postponed. I was really excited to get back and get to work, be around the guys again.”
The majority of us are creatures of habit. The 49ers had their OTAs toward the end of May and the beginning of June in 2019. With the coronavirus, OTAs have been postponed, and there has not been a date set. As Bourne mentioned, OTAs are more about being around your teammates and building bonds. The strong relationships on the 49ers played a part in their success last season.
Bourne couldn’t stop praising Sanders, who recently signed with the Saints:
He’s a living testament to what we want to be. Everything he does, how he acts off the field, you know it’s the proper way to do it because he’s been doing it for 11 years now. So there’s no doubt that it works. He was always trying to teach us, me, Deebo and Dante and us, ‘Do this. This is the better way,’ rather than keeping it to himself. He’s benefiting all of us being in the room because he’s vocal. He’s a real leader, a physical leader. He does what he’s supposed to do in all aspects. That’s how you know why he’s played this long, and why he will play another three more years.
That almost reads like a love letter. All jokes aside, this is why I feel like relying on a rookie to replace Sanders is a dangerous game. The young receivers on the 49ers gravitated to Sanders and learned how to prepare and approach the game, all while building confidence. Going from a veteran that has been there to a 21-year-old is a loss in the leadership category. On the field is to be determined. Off the field, Sanders was everything the 49ers wanted.
KB talked about how impressive Sanders’ conditioning was:
The biggest thing with Emmanuel for me was just his conditioning and how long he can stay in the game,” Bourne said. “It was really impressive to me because I know if I’m in for like four plays, I’ll be like huffing and puffing a little bit. Emmanuel didn’t have a governor. He could be out there seven plays in a row. I’ve been focusing this offseason to where when I hit that wall, but I still got two more plays left in me.
Hopefully, the 49ers’ wideouts took soaked up every bit of knowledge they learned from Sanders and can use that for themselves, and the rookie wide receiver the Niners draft.
Finally, Bourne talked about the Super Bowl loss and the motivation to get back:
“Kyle, he knows how to get there. And the people that he brings in to make the route getting there easier. Kyle was in there twice, so even how he thinks, he wants to win. His mindset gets more motivated when you lose. There’s just more motivation going through a loss like that for me because how I feel working out now in the offseason, just so motivated. I want to get up and go to the field more than I did. ... Now the vision is so clear for the team. We went through the rebuilding. We did all the steps it took. And we got into the highest stage of the game.”
The 49ers went from a team everyone wanted to face a team nobody wants to see on their schedule in a season. Even with losing a couple of critical players like Sanders and DeForest Buckner, the Niners are still one of the better teams in the NFL on paper. If the culture remains the same, this team will be contenders in 2020.