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Samuel: ‘We are trying to do this year what we didn’t get done last year’

The second-year receiver is finding his voice as a leader in the Niners locker room.

Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are hoping Deebo Samuel will take over as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver after a promising rookie season. The 24-year-old finished 2019 with 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns. Samuel proved to be a threat in the running game as well, rushing for 159 yards and three scores.

Samuel caught up with the media to discuss his new rookie teammates, Javon Kinlaw and how he has been training during the lockdown.

On what he sees in rookies Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings:

“I kind of know Jauan Jennings’ game pretty well from when I played against him in college. You can tell he’s a very physical guy that likes to get after it. Doesn’t care about getting dirty or whatnot. You can see Aiyuk got a little finesse to his game, which I like. I mean, we’re kind of similar in a lot of ways. I just like that it will give the defense problems, with jet sweep motions, I think it will give defenses things to think about.”

What are the 49ers getting both on the field and off with Javon Kinlaw?

“I’ve been with Javon since he got there. He’s a very humble, hardworking guy, not a problem type of guy. He’s very chill when he comes off the field. He wants to do the best he can when he’s on the field, and you can just look at him and see that he’s just a dog out there.”

Seems like things might be opening up more in some parts of the country, has there been any talk with Jimmy [Garoppolo] about getting together with the receivers for a workout?

“We just talked about that a couple of hours ago on Zoom. We were all together, and Jimmy told us where he was at, a couple of guys are going back a little early. I’m over here in Houston, training with Jet McKinnon and a couple of more guys.”

On the loss of Emmanuel Sanders mean to you:

“As you could see, when we got Emmanuel, the whole room changed. He brought the leader mentality, the vet mentality to the room. Anytime we needed advice, he was always there. The things he told us about the game, whether it’s on the field or off the field, like taking care of your body and things like that. The loss of him is kind of big. We knew we weren’t going to be able to keep everybody, so have to find a guy to step up and take his role, but I think it was very helpful to have him as part of the team last year.

On potentially having to travel outside the state for training camp:

“It’s kind of like last year, throughout the week, you face adversity. Say somebody goes down, you just have to figure out ways to get through adversity and do the things you need to do to get the job done.”

On how Jimmy Garoppolo helped his development as a rookie:

“You see the things Jimmy does on the field, but after practice, he coaches really hard, and it’s very technique sound. Going into this year, I’m just trying to double what I did last year and just keep getting better-and-better every day.”

On what training with McKinnon has been like during the pandemic:

“The guy we have been training with is Adrian Peterson and his trainer. Also, Trent Williams is out here. I mean, training with these guys is one of the hardest workouts I have done since I started playing football. But, I feel like when it’s time to go back, looking at other guys on the team like KB (Kendrick Bourne), and all of the other teammates training hard, I just think we are taking advantage of the opportunity to still be able to work out and be in the best possible shape when we get back.”

On working with the new wide receivers and building chemistry:

“In our meeting room, the players will be hard on each other more than the coaches will. We are out there playing, and we know what we are trying to do this year that we didn’t do last year. You can see it’s going to be a real competition, it’s going to push everybody in the room to be as best as they can.”

On what clicked for him as a rookie in the second half of the year and playoffs?

“At the beginning of the year, I was still kind of learning and figuring things out. As the season goes on, you know how you progress, and you become better at listening to the verbiage, knowing where to line up. Just getting lined up faster and not thinking as much, so I think that kind of played a role. Me, KB, and Emmanuel were in the room with Wes [Welker], we would be there an hour [before] anyone else was at the stadium, trying to get everything down that we have planned for the week.”

On his conversation with Aiyuk after he was drafted:

“With Aiyuk, I asked Wes what his number was because I know how hard it is to be a pro. Be as good as you can in this offense without thinking, so I gave him a call, and I was just like, ‘hey man, I just want you to know it’s going to take time.’ He’s got it harder than I do now because I was around the coaches and was able to talk to coaches as much as possible. With him, it’s just a Zoom call. It’s kind of hard to listen to a guy telling you what do and not be able to get out on the field. I was like hey man, ‘you just need to lock in and pay attention, even though I know it’s hard. If you need anything, you’re free to call any one of us, like me, KB, or even Wes.’ I was telling him what we are trying to do this year what we didn’t get done last year.”

On if he has talked with Kinlaw?

“I talked to Javon the other day. I just told him that he’s got big shoes to fill. He’s more than ready to get out there and show the coaches what he’s capable of. I saw it firsthand when I was there [in South Carolina.]

On what he learned during his rookie season that will help grow as a leader in year 2:

“Emmanuel played a major role in that. He was like, ‘bro; you don’t know that you’re a leader just by your play. Imagine how big of a leader you can be when you’re more verbal and able to coach players on certain things.’ I’m not a very talkative guy, I like to lead by example, so being more verbal is something I have been working on lately.”

On if losing Sanders and Marquise Goodwin made him want to be more of a leader:

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ll change anything from what I have been doing. Just continue to be me, even if it’s not being a No.1 receiver. Just continue going out there and doing my job, and bringing my teammates along. I know it’s a team sport, it’s not about one person, so everyone has to be on the same page, same accord to go out there and get the job done.”

On how Trent Williams being a freak athlete:

“Most definitely. I mean, he’s strong, and to be that big and move the way he moves, it’s kind of crazy.”

On player safety amid the pandemic and potentially playing without fans:

“The fans are a part of the game. I never in life played a game without fans, so I wouldn’t know how it would feel. I think it’ll feel like a scrimmage and whatnot; it’ll kind of feel weird. But, I mean, if that happens, we just have to make the best out of every opportunity we get to go out there and play, even if it’s with, or without him.”

On which 49ers receiver will surprise in 2020:

“Just looking in the receiving room, it can be anybody, to be honest with you. We have freakish athletes all throughout the room, so we are just going to have to see.”