Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and some of his offensive teammates were on a Zoom call Wednesday when the subject came up about getting together later in the offseason for some player-organized workouts.
NFL players have been unable to meet at team practice headquarters this offseason due to restrictions put in place with the COVID-19 pandemic. But as some states begin to loosen restrictions, there could be a time when such gatherings are allowed away NFL facilities.
“Jimmy told us where he was at, and a couple guys going back a little early,” Samuel said on a video call with reporters. “I’m out here in Houston training with ‘Jet’ McKinnon and a couple more guys.”
The transition to the NFL was difficult enough for Samuel a year ago when he reported to Santa Clara for a rookie camp. He was able to spend most of the offseason with the coaching staff. That is why when the 49ers selected Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick, Samuel immediately reached out to 49ers receivers coach Wes Welker to get Aiyuk’s contact information.
“I knew how hard it is to be as good as you want to be in this offense, without thinking,” Samuel said. “I gave him a call and was 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 able to use the coaches as much as possible. With him, it’s just a Zoom call. It’s hard to listen to a guy telling you what to do and not being able to go out there on the field. I told him, 'You just have to lock in, pay attention.'"
Samuel said he told Aiyuk to feel free to call him, Kendrick Bourne or Welker any time he had a question about the team's sophisticated offense.
Samuel got better and better as he got more and more comfortable in the 49ers’ offense during his rookie season. He caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season. He also rushed for 159 yards.
Veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders proved to beneficial to Samuel, on and off the field, after he came to the 49ers in a midseason trade. Sanders signed a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints, leaving a leadership void. Samuel appears more willing to accept a greater role this season.
Samuel also credited Garoppolo for the role he played in his fast development as a rookie.
“You see the things Jimmy does on the field, but more likely at practice,” Samuel said. “He coaches very hard, and it’s very technique-sound. Going into this year, I’m just trying to double what I did last year and keep getting better and better every day.”