It feels very good to say that I have another opportunity to go out and play for the San Francisco 49ers next season.
My family was pretty excited about the news. I told most of them from the beginning that this was probably going to be where I ended up. And when I spoke to the team at the end of the year, they made it clear: They wanted to re-sign me. That was a great thing to hear. Going into free agency, it was a no-brainer. I was going to return.
San Francisco is where I wanted to be.
Once it happened, everybody was very happy and hit me up to tell me how excited they were. It's cool to have people supporting my dream in that way.
One of the beautiful things about playing for my hometown team is that I'll be in the Bay Area for so much more time this year than I have in the past. That will present a chance to give back to the San Francisco-Bay Area community in ways I haven't been able to before.
I'm looking forward to being able to go into some of the schools and youth programs, and inspire the young kids, which is a huge thing for me. I've always had the desire and passion to mentor and help youth anyway I can. I'm excited to do it now in my hometown.
I'm also excited for the chance to be with the team through the offseason and training camp. That's an opportunity I didn't get last season. It's an important step in continuing to develop a comfort level, chemistry, cohesiveness and trust amongst my teammates, as well as everybody else in the organization.
During camp, you're working together in the classroom and on the field, putting in blood, sweat and tears with your teammates. It builds better relationships based in respect. Keeping those same hours, you also end up going to eat dinner together and hanging around with the guys that you'll be out there playing with. That in itself is a team-building experience.
I'll also be able to learn our defensive system in a deeper, more thorough way as I get to spend more time with the coaches. That extra time and coaching is valuable and necessary to have a great knowledge of the defense, my role and what is expected of me. It's one thing to know the basics of the defense. It's something entirely different to know the intricacies of the playbook and the scheme.
Those hours spent before the season are when you learn those things.
Until I report to the team, I'll be working out on my own. So far, that's been going pretty well for me this offseason.
At this point, my workouts are still pretty basic. I do some work with agility, strength and conditioning, and cardio. I'm also doing physical therapy to rejuvenate my body, and prepare it to endure another year of playing the game.
Each season takes so much out of a player. Everybody gets nicks and lingering injuries that you're just playing through because that's what we do.
That's why I believe the start of the offseason is a time to heal all those nicks, and strengthen your weaknesses. Once you do that, you put in work on top of the recovery to make sure you're in optimal shape to perform when the season comes around. Everybody is different in terms of what it takes to get to that point.
Personally, I put as much emphasis on working smart as I do on working hard.
And to be honest, it took me a couple years in the NFL to realize that and find something that works for me. My first couple of offseasons, I took maybe two weeks off and then jumped right back into full workouts that had me going crazy hard. By mid-January, I was back in the gym going all out.
That may work for some people. But with some experience, I learned that you need some time to rest and let your body recover. Those things I was doing in January and February weren't helping me later.
Now, I start every offseason with a period of rest, then proceed to physical therapy — things like treatment and massage, stretching and yoga — to alleviate some of the pain I dealt with during the season, and to replenish my body. I want to feel as fresh as possible before I go into full-training mode.
Once I start training, it's all about a slow build up toward peak performance. I don't want to be peaking in April or May. I want to be peaking when the season comes around. So it's not a matter of jumping right into it and running 100 gassers or doing anything crazy. It has to be a gradual incline to build to the point where you're at optimal physical condition.
Even as I'm training now, I'm still doing physical therapy. I'm still getting massages. I'm still stretching, working with strength coaches and trying to improve my flexibility. At the end of the day, those aren't just things that help you recover from an injury. They help you prevent injury and make it so that you are able to train harder. Nobody wants to get hurt during training. You want to be mindful of working smarter, not just harder.
Right now, I'm at the gym for about four hours a day. I start with an hour of physical therapy and treatment, then I do two hours of training and I finish with an hour cool down, which is when I do some extra stuff. Sometimes that's extra cardio, extra stretching or extra ab work. Sometimes, it's a massage or more treatment of some sort.
I'm still at the beginning stage of this year's training schedule. Down the line, I'll add boxing training to the end of my workouts. I've done that the last couple of years. I'm also thinking about trying out some MMA training. Anything I can do to get better, I'm willing to give it a shot.
I've talked to a number of the guys on the team since last season ended. Everybody is extremely hungry for the start of a new season. It's just a matter of not being satisfied. When you set a goal and you fall short, there's nothing left to do but pick up the pieces, and come back stronger and harder.
From the conversations I've had with people, I can tell you: There's a do-or-die mentality to this upcoming season. Everybody wants to put in even more work this time around so we don't fall short. Nobody wants to feel that pain of not attaining our goal again.
Losing Donte Whitner is definitely going to change the dynamic for us. He was a leader in the secondary, someone who had been in the system a few years, and a guy we could count on. He also provided a huge physical presence for us. He brought that energy, and we looked to him for motivation. So that's definitely going to be missed.
But Antoine Bethea is going to fit in well here. He's been in the league for a long time, and has played on some great teams. He's a consistent player. From what I've seen, he has great ability. He can go get the ball, and he's not afraid to put the wood on somebody. Those type of attributes are a good match for our style of defense, and the way we like to play.
As we draw closer to the start of camp, you can tell that everybody is getting more focused on the season and trying to block out all distractions. Once we report, we have to put our heads down and get the work in so we can get to where we want to be.