With NFL players still barred from conducting workouts at their team facilities due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of them have taken it upon themselves to organize players-only training sessions wherever they can find a field.
That includes several 49ers players, as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has sought to put in work with some of his main weapons. On Wednesday, for instance, he was joined by Jalen Hurd, Kendrick Bourne and Kyle Juszczyk for a workout at CEFCU Stadium (formerly known as Spartan Stadium) at San Jose State.
It turns out there was another member of the team present for the workout: Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Aiyuk, whom San Francisco traded up to select in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, had core-muscle surgery in April and wasn't medically cleared until a few weeks ago. Wednesday's training session represented his first on-field work with his new teammates.
"It was like, 'I’m on the field right now catching passes from Jimmy G,'" Aiyuk told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. "That’s when it kind of hit me."
On Thursday, Aiyuk posted four photos from the workout on Instagram, two of which show off his ridiculous 81-inch wingspan.
Aiyuk is listed at 6-feet, so that massive wingspan helps him get to balls that might initially appear out out of reach. He recorded 98 receptions for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns over two seasons at Arizona State, while also averaging 27.1 yards per kickoff return. His big-play ability got the 49ers' attention, and his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine cemented it.
Rookie receivers often experience a difficult transition from college to the NFL, though Deebo Samuel caught on pretty quickly in 2019. The 49ers are hoping Aiyuk can make a similar impact after letting Emmanuel Sanders depart in free agency, and Samuel already has taken him under his wing.
"I remember watching the 49ers last year and just thinking how much fun they had as a group," Aiyuk said. "And then when I got to meet some of the guys, it has kind of been the same thing. Just good people. I’ve talked to (Bourne) and Deebo the most out of the receiver group. They’ve brought me into the family."
Aiyuk has many more balls to catch from Garoppolo to match Samuel's production as a rookie, but at least now he has the first ones out of the way.
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