SANTA CLARA – The bye week afforded 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas an opportunity to take a deep breath to regroup for the final stretch of his second season.
“I definitely took time to go back and watch film of myself, what I need to work on, what I’m missing, what I’m lacking, to work on my weaknesses,” Thomas told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday.
“It was an opportunity to really reset my mindset of how I want to finish this year, how I want it to look like on film to finish the year.”
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft has not played up to his own high standard, he said. In fact, the 49ers have not gotten much this season from general manager John Lynch’s first draft.
Thomas ranks 17th on the team with 19 tackles. He has just one sack. The team’s other first-round pick, Reuben Foster, was released after he was arrested at the team hotel in Tampa, Florida, after a domestic violence incident.
But the 49ers have not given up on Thomas, who played 53 of 73 defensive snaps Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lynch recently told NBC Sports Bay Area that he still believes in Thomas, and argues against the “bust” label.
Thomas can understand why he has come under considerable criticism. After all, he had not come close to his own standard, either.
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“I have my own expectations,” Thomas said. “And I’m definitely the hardest person on myself, and I want to make myself the best player and person I can be for this team. So I really set my expectations high, and I have go to follow them and chase them and work my butt off to go get it done.
“I’m not at my expectations right now. I’m not where I should be. I’m not playing like I want to. There’s a long way for me to go. It’s going to be a long journey, but I can definitely get there, and I can definitely prove to everyone who I am and why I was drafted where I was drafted. It’s going to be a journey, but I’m going to get there.”
Thomas, who recorded 8.5 sacks during his final season at Stanford, believes he can find his niche as an inside pass rusher on nickel downs, when the opposition has three wide receivers on the field. Thomas has started nine of the 49ers' 11 games at pass-rush end, but is most comfortable rushing the passer from inside.
“I was very happy with the reps I got (against Tampa Bay), and I just want to keep improving on it and gaining on it, get more comfortable and rush freely and not think, and just go,” he said. “I feel like I can just continue to work down there and get better each game and prove I’m a force down there.
“Really, it’s just about trusting my ability and trusting my talent. Just go play the best I can. I can make an impact down there for the team.”
It has been an unimaginably difficult year for Thomas, whose sister, Ella, died of suicide in January. Lynch said he has tried to put himself in Thomas’ situation, but he cannot even begin to imagine the challenge of trying to perform at a high level while still dealing with that kind of tragedy.
Through it all, Lynch and the 49ers have been supportive and shown faith. And that means a lot to Thomas.
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“That gives me confidence,” Thomas said. “That gives me trust in them. I want to play my butt off for John and everyone on this team. They mean the world to me, to give me the opportunity to live out my dream and play this game.
“It’s a blessing that I get to do what I get to do. So I want to be the best player I can be for this team and myself, and I just want to go ball. I know I can. I just want to put it on film, and stop talking about it and just do it.”