SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers are hoping the 2021 NFL season will be a bounce-back year for the franchise, and Deebo Samuel is hoping the same applies to him.
After nearly amassing 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his rookie year in 2019, the South Carolina product dealt with the injury bug in 2020. A Jones fracture in his foot during the offseason kept Samuel off the field until Week 4.
Samuel was unable to stay healthy suffering a hamstring injury in Week 7 in the 49ers' win over the New England Patriots. The young receiver returned, but was only able to suit up for two games before aggravating the hamstring injury cut his season short after one snap in in Week 14.
With weight training facilities no longer closed off to players due to COVID-19 restrictions, Samuel has put in work during this offseason. The third-year wideout has added yoga to his training program to increase his flexibility, hopefully to eliminate any hamstring and lower body issues.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has noticed the difference in Samuel.
“I've been very happy with Deebo,” Shanahan said on Monday. “He came into camp in as good a shape as I've seen him. You know, he left OTAs not quite there yet, but trending there. And so I was really curious of how he was going to be these 40 days away. And just being in shape and stuff, it's the best I've seen him.”
Samuel is excited to be back on the field after what he said felt like a year away from the game. He quickly has built chemistry with rookie quarterback Trey Lance, and has returned to being a primary target for Jimmy Garoppolo at practice as well.
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Through a week of training camp practices, Samuel has been seen as a ball carrier in jet sweep plays but also a further away from the line of scrimmage. The wideout’s bread and butter has been making the most out of every play, primarily in yards after catch.
In his third season, Samuel wants to prove he can be a deep threat as well.
“That was something that I was working on this offseason -- running more deep routes, not being just a catch and run type of guy,” Samuel said in the first week of training camp. “Getting separation in and out of breaks and whenever I get the opportunity just going to take advantage of it.”