A week from today, we’ll have an NFL regular season game.
The 49ers got a series of positive injury updates from head coach Kyle Shanahan following Wednesday’s practice. Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk were among the players Shanahan expects to be back in action for the lead up to the season opener on Sept. 13, but now it sounds like they could get another receiver back for Week 1. NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo reported Richie James Jr. “should be cleared in advance of Week 1.”
This is a stark contrast to the last update Shanahan gave about James, in which the head coach said he expected James to begin the season on the Non-Football Injury list after James broke his hand during an offseason workout.
Initial reports on the injury indicated James would be back by mid-August. Starting the season on NFI would’ve put the receiver out of action for at least the first six weeks. Now Garafolo has the receiver and return man slotted to suit up for the season opener.
James hasn’t been much of a factor on offense since the 49ers made him a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft. He has just 15 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns in his career, but he’s carved out a role as a return man. James has been the 49ers’ primary returner on kickoffs for two years, then last season took over punt return duties.
During quarantine, you’ve got to get creative with your preparation, so I had to make it happen at the house. That included my diet. I started spending more time and effort on my diet to see the results that I wanted to see. You don’t realize the importance of diet as much when you’re in college. I’ve learned it’s just as important as your training. If you’re hurt, you can’t play. And if you can’t go, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. I took that to heart and tried to find ways to maximize my full potential with my diet. It was a must for me to come to camp as prepared as possible, because I heard the NFL is no joke.
So, back to my first day at the facility. It was just a humbling moment. To come into this environment, I was like, “man, I’m here. I am walking inside of Levi’s Stadium.” I had to go check out the field, just to see how green the grass was. It was unbelievable to see a field I could possibly be playing on. Coming from the University of Tennessee, that’s a huge stadium as well. But to walk into this stadium – the same stadium of the team that was just in the Super Bowl, I am here practicing with this team, getting ready to go out and play on this same field right here. It’s the craziest experience.
Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday that the 49ers will practice and stay at The Greenbrier between New York games.
“I think we’re going to stay at the Greenbrier in between for a week,” Shanahan said. “So I believe that has been approved. No one’s told me that we’re not doing it. So usually someone tells me if something bad has happened and no one has told me. So I’m counting on that to work out right now.”
The NFL previously had strongly urged teams to return home after road games, given the mini-bubble being created in each city. The 49ers essentially will have to create a separate bubble in West Virginia for a week.
In 2013, The Greenbrier created a football training facility for the Saints, who trained there for three summers. The Texans spent multiple camps there, too. The Cardinals also have stayed there between East Coast games.
Fast forward to today, and Welker is the one showing him the ropes of what it means to be an NFL receiver. Joining a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance, and the many superstars who are now his teammates, it was Welker who Jennings was most excited to see upon reporting.
“I really enjoy being around him and picking his brain,” wrote Jennings. “I feel super lucky to be able to learn from one of the best to do it.”
Jennings has already noticed the uniqueness of the 49ers locker room. The team has excellent chemistry and knows how to have fun. But when it comes time to step onto the field, it also knows how to put in hard work.
“Even the walkthroughs are competitive,” noted Jennings. There’s a mindset in this building that you instantly feel in this locker room. Although they know how to have fun, they take this very seriously. It makes it even more fun to go out there and know that the person across from you is going to give their all.
“... I’m just excited to keep going and continue to grow and learn in this offense. I’m not worried about my own personal accolades. I just want to do what the coaches ask of me and succeed in doing it. My goal is to do what’s needed from me to help this team get back to the Super Bowl.”