I’m in a great mental space right now. I have the whole offseason and a fresh season ahead of me. I’m excited to hit the ground running, and really get into form and make my mark.
Obviously, it would mean a lot to me if I could return to San Francisco next season, and continue playing for the 49ers. I really appreciated the opportunity this year, but I think I could be even more valuable to the team starting a new season with them from the very beginning. Being with one team for offseason workouts and mini-camp, then trying to get acclimated to a new system at the end of training camp -- that put me at a disadvantage for sure.
You can’t overstate the value of being able to have a full offseason with a team starting with mini-camp, then OTAs, offseason workouts, and then moving into training camp. Things like trust, cohesiveness, chemistry, knowledge of not only the playbook but your other players -- a lot of that type of stuff is built during the offseason.
That’s why you spend that time working out together. It’s important to be with your team through the offseason to build on all of those things. It makes the difference. Just being around the 49ers, and with my teammates and my coaches during that time, doing all the things needed to prepare and load up once again to win a championship, would be such a positive for me moving forward. The thought of being a part of that from the very beginning is exciting to me.
I really hope I get that opportunity.
This past season, our defensive backs became a very tight group. I’m proud of the way we really stuck together, and played some good football on the back end when a lot of people counted us out.
Our position coach, Ed Donatell, is one of the best coaches I’ve had. He’s been in the league for a long time, and he really knows how to deal with players. He gets the most out of his guys because he knows how to treat each person as a person.
He really extends himself to have a personal relationship with guys, as does Greg Jackson, the assistant defensive backs coach. Those guys come in with a plethora of information for us, to help us go out there and win games.
I had a lot of fun with the secondary group as a whole. I was already close with Tarell Brown before I got to San Francisco, and I got to know Tramaine Brock really well this year.
Tramaine really impressed. He turned in a really good season, and didn’t talk about it one bit. He wasn’t even expected to start at any point. He went out there and made a lot of plays for us, and really held it down, which resulted in him getting a nice contract extension. It was cool to see the work he put in, and it gave me a different appreciation for his season.
I’d argue he was the best corner in the league this year. Truthfully. Richard Sherman played well. Joe Haden got to go to the Pro Bowl after putting in a lot of good work out there in Cleveland. I’m proud of Darrelle Revis for coming back, playing as well as he did and really sticking out a tough situation out there coming off of his knee surgery.
There was a lot of good cornerback play, but I’m gonna give it to Brock. (I mean, you know, it’s not gonna be Richard Sherman.)
In addition to Tramaine and Tarell, I also got very close to our rookie safety, Eric Reid.
I can go on and on talking about that guy. He’s just a really good person, and I’m excited to sit back and continue to watch him grow as a player. I’m happy that he was able to go out and play in the Pro Bowl. It was a great experience for him. I think he should have won Defensive Rookie of the Year, but hey, that’s just my opinion.
I spent a lot of time with the younger guys on the squad: Darryl Morris, Marcus Lattimore, Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine, just trying to help them learning the game.
But the entire team got along really well. That’s kind of just how our locker room is.
One of the leaders in the locker room is Patrick Willis. He’s a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for. We were in the same draft class, and he was the top linebacker in the draft. I met him at the combine, and saw him on a couple of pre-draft visits. I could tell he was a great guy.
Coming into San Francisco, I noticed that he’s really been the same guy I met back in 2007. He’s extremely self-motivated, definitely well-grounded and a really hard worker.
To have somebody like that on the team, who has been a blue-collar worker and a really good player since he came into the league, it’s great for this organization. It was definitely a good experience for me because I’ve always admired his game from afar. I’m happy that I got the chance to be in the same locker room as him, be on the same defense as him and play with him (and not only just watch in amazement).
One of the other leaders of the locker room is Colin Kaepernick.. He’s definitely a class act, well-respected in the locker room and guys are comfortable with him having the reigns.
One thing I noticed about Colin: He has this way of taking in the moment, and really enjoying it. He really embraced the responsibilities of being a franchise quarterback, and everything that came along with it. Remember: This was just his second year.
On the field, Kap’s ability is so impressive that sometimes, I just laugh. Truthfully. I have literally sat back and just laughed at some of the stuff that he was doing. It’s unfair to a certain extent, his escapability and ability to run the ball. I’m laughing mostly at those other guys who try to chase him.
I also think he became a better passer. Obviously, I wasn’t in San Francisco for his first year, but everybody just kept talking about him running. That isn’t the whole story. He’s obviously a very talented runner, but I think he also made a lot of great throws throughout the year, and a lot of great decisions.
He has a bright future and the 49ers have a bright future with him leading the way.