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Kyle Shanahan downplays notion that Deebo Samuel’s role impacts his contract

Deebo Samuel is holding in at 49ers camp, and he has all the cards as San Francisco begins to transition to inexperienced QB Trey Lance.

After 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel publicly stated his desire to be traded, without explaining why he wanted out, those who cover the NFL for a living tried to fill the vacuum with facts or theories or suppositions or whatever. Among the concerns raised was the notion that Samuel wasn’t happy with his role, which had morphed during the 2021 season from full-time receiver to full-time receiver and part-time running back.

As bad as things seemed between Samuel and the 49ers, the situation improved after the draft. The vibe shifted from “Deebo is gone” to “Deebo is gonna get a new contract.”

That’s where things currently stand. Samuel is with the team and not practicing (the “hold in,” as it’s now known) and his agents are negotiating a new deal.

On Saturday, coach Kyle Shanahan was asked whether he’d spoken to Samuel about this role, and whether things need to be expressly stated as to the way he’s used in order to get Samuel’s next deal done.

“Nope,” Shanahan said. “I was wondering about these press conferences. Now it just clicked. Welcome back. No, guys, Deebo and I talk a lot. We’re good. And we understand our role. I know there’s a lot of noise for five months and tweets and a lot of people are repeating what someone said and repeating and repeating and repeating. There’s a lot of negotiations going on. There’s a lot of money involved. It’s a big business deal, but besides everything else, we’re good.”

Although Shanahan, who at times opts to be dismissive of the folks whose job it is to cover the team (if you win enough games it’s fine; if you don’t, well, best of luck with that approach), downplayed the idea that Samuel’s role is an issue, the possibility that it is, or that it should be, is fairly obvious from the circumstances.

Consider Samuel’s own words. During Super Bowl week, he told PFT Live that the sudden emphasis on running the ball, “kind of caught me by surprise, not going to lie.”

“It started midseason,” Samuel added, “Kyle came to me he was like, ‘Hey Deebo, we’re going to hand you the ball a little bit this week.’ Then from there on it’s just, ‘All right, you’re getting more carries here, you’re getting more carries, you’re getting more carries.’ It just kept growing.”

It started in Week Nine. Before that, Deebo had six total carries for the entire season. Then, on a Monday night game in the middle of November against the Rams, he got five carries. Six days later, eight. From there, it was six, eight, six, five, seven, and eight.

In the playoffs, it intensified. Ten carries against the Cowboys. Ten more against the Packers. Seven in the NFC Championship game.

Despite Shanahan’s effort to downplay the connection between role and contract, how can the two not be related? Although the notion that Deebo doesn’t want to run the ball as much in order to avoid the kind of car-crash hits that could shorten his career may be incorrect, why wouldn’t Samuel expect a sweetener based on the fact that the 49ers reserve the right to revise his role to including running the ball?

A running back used extensively as a receiver would want more than he’d get solely as a running back. Why shouldn’t a receiver who is used extensively as a running back want more than he’d solely get as a receiver?