“It was awful,” Samuel said.
In what way?
After a breakout 2021 season, Samuel spent most of last offseason embroiled in a contract standoff with the 49ers that included an unfulfilled trade request. The 49ers held firm to Samuel, opting not to deal him despite overtures from other teams at last year’s NFL draft.
The sides eventually came together, with Samuel signing a three-year extension worth up to $73.5 million in early August. The deal got done, but the fallout, according to Samuel, carried over to the field.
Samuel acknowledged Tuesday that the contract negotiations were a distraction during the offseason and shouldered the blame for not returning to the team in good shape, noting that he felt sluggish as early as training camp practices.
After posting 1,770 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns on his way to a first-team All-Pro selection in 2021, Samuel’s numbers dipped to 864 scrimmage yards and five total touchdowns in 2022. Samuel also missed four games with injuries, including a sprained ankle that cost him the final three games of the regular season.
Samuel and coach Kyle Shanahan sat down recently to watch tape of Samuel’s 2022 season, and Samuel came away clearly disappointed in what he saw.
“We talked about it, we put it behind us and [were] just going through the tape and just look how sluggish and how bad it looked on tape,” Samuel said. “I never will put nothing like that back on tape again.”
Samuel said he has returned to a similar offseason program to what he did before his big 2021 season and vowed to return for training camp in July “more than ready to go” from the first day.
Another key 49er the team hopes will be at camp ready to go from the first day is defensive end Nick Bosa. Bosa, who won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award last season, is not looking to bounce back from a disappointing season. He is, however, in a similar situation to where Samuel was a year ago as he awaits a lucrative contract extension that figures to make him one of the highest-paid defenders in league history, if not the highest-paid.
Bosa, who has not participated in the offseason program but is in town for the mandatory minicamp but not practicing, has followed his usual routine when it comes to the offseason. That means training with brother Joey in Florida and preparing for the grind of the season. After the Niners lost in the NFC Championship Game to the Philadelphia Eagles in January, Bosa said he would be patient when it comes to getting a new deal.
And although no contract has materialized, Bosa said Tuesday that he is “pretty confident” an accord will be struck either before training camp or just after it opens. San Francisco has executed massive deals on a similar timeline with the likes of Samuel, tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner in recent years.
Asked whether he expects to become the highest-paid defender in the league when the deal is done, Bosa demurred.
“I think I’ll get what I deserve,” Bosa said.
As for quarterback Brock Purdy, the Niners remain optimistic about how he’s progressing as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow. Purdy had the procedure March 10 and began throwing a football again last week. He is throwing three times a week at a designated distance and effort level.
That puts Purdy on track to potentially be cleared for football activities at some point during training camp in August and be available for the Sept. 10 season opener at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Shanahan offered little in the way of a progress report Tuesday other than to acknowledge that the fact that there is no update is a sign that Purdy is progressing as hoped.
“He’s right on pace,” Shanahan said. “That’s a part of this process of getting back, and he’s continuing right on the track he’s always been on. No setbacks. It’s been very good so far.”
With Purdy throwing again, Shanahan was asked whether it’s possible for Purdy to take part in some early training camp activities even if he’s not fully cleared. Shanahan said he isn’t looking that far ahead yet.
“I’m taking it very slowly,” Shanahan said. “It’s not like you just jump out and push stuff. You’re only supposed to throw on this date at this percentage, this many yards and you do a certain [amount a] couple days later, and if you stay on track, it should heal right away. And right now, everything’s right on track, and so we don’t go any, I don’t ask three weeks ahead; let’s just keep trying to stay on the trajectory.”