SANTA CLARA - Richie James Jr. can’t wait to start his offseason program so he can focus on developing his craft. The 49ers rookie wide receiver saw how it helped George Kittle succeed in his second year, and he plans to follow the tight end’s lead.
Preparing for the draft is not the same as preparing for a season in the NFL. Training for NFL Combine tests like the bench press and the 40-yard dash isn’t something that transfers into on-field production. James is excited for his full offseason to really develop his game.
“It’s actually a dream come true to be honest with you,” James said. “You’re not focused on what you’ve dreamed of doing, You can focus on your craft. I don’t have school, I can literally just think about football.”
Kittle was very vocal when asked what contributed to his jump in production that led to an AP All-Pro second team nod in his second year. He credited being able to work on the small things that would improve his play while on the field, instead of preparing for pro-days and the NFL Combine.
“If you look at George between last year and this year,” James said, “you will see a difference. That’s because he got comfortable, and that’s all you need. Once you get a player comfortable in the system, that’s when they feel like they can do everything.”
James also notes that getting his rookie season under his belt has helped him a great deal. Now he knows what to expect.
“I love that I got my first year over with,” James said. “And I got experience and I got my feet wet. There are so many things I know I can work on, and I’m really proud that I can recognize that. I can’t wait."
One of the things that James said he did learn during his rookie year is to have a short memory. James muffed a punt that resulted in a Seahawks touchdown in the team’s blow out loss in Week 13. Two weeks later he bounced back and returned a punt for 97 yards when facing Seattle for the second time.
“It’s really hard to have a short memory,” James said. “You think about it, you’re putting yourself in the same situation, seeing the same thing. That’s a mental thing. I know I can catch punts. That’s a thing I can say I learned from. And then I made up for it.”
One thing that James is not afraid to do is put in work. He didn’t take a break from football in college and doesn’t plan on lessening his dedication to it now that he’s in the NFL.
“In college I had the chance to go home during the breaks but I stayed at school,” James said. “I stayed for my last three years. I love being creative during the long time off to actually do stuff. I can’t wait. This is going to be fun.”
“I’m that type of player that once I get comfortable in the system, I’m going to show my best.”