San Francisco 49ers TE/FB Bruce Miller wrote a post for Chat Sports on Tuesday that covered a number of interesting topics including his experience at the combine, being drafted by the 49ers, switching positions, and more.
While sharing his experiences within the league, Miller discussed the 2011 lockout as the NFL and NFL Players Association butted heads on a new collective bargaining agreement. During that time, then-quarterback Alex Smith led the charge and held his own unsanctioned practices, dubbed "Camp Alex," with teammates because players were not allowed to interact with their teams. In fact, Smith wasn't even part of a team, as he was unsigned, but new head coach Jim Harbaugh had let him know that he wanted him to return to the 49ers.
"Alex called me a week after the draft. He was holding his own private workouts for the team – 7x7 drills, weight lifting, conditioning – totally off the radar. So that was when I made my first trip out to San Jose, California," says Miller. "Alex had snuck out a copy of the playbook. I'm not sure how he got his hands on it. Maybe the security was more lax since Jim Harbaugh was brand new as head coach. Together, we all tried to learn the offense. And I tried to learn the position of fullback for the first time."
Of course, before anyone imagines Smith hanging from Harbaugh's office à la Mission Impossible in an effort to acquire a playbook, remember that the lockout was very briefly lifted by Judge Susan Nelson in April of 2011 and players had even briefer limited access to team facilities during that time.
Harbaugh, the first-year 49ers head coach in 2011, would turn out to be Miller's favorite coach. "Jim Harbaugh is my favorite coach that I've ever had, and I thrived under his leadership," says Miller. "He was an outstanding teacher with an unrivaled knowledge of the game. He brought energy that most coaches just don't have, and really knew how to get the most out of his players."
As far as Harbaugh's intensity for the game, it was apparently just as strong away from the football field as it was on the sidelines. "Coach Harbaugh lives and breathes football. He loved football so much that he simply couldn't contain himself or hold it in," says Miller. "In meetings and at practice, he was exactly the way he appeared on the sidelines as games – full of emotion and intensity. He set the tone for the entire team, and the expectation that every player would be equally as focused."
Of course, there are some similarities between the three coaches Miller has had during his time in the NFL, which include Harbaugh, his successor Jim Tomsula, and current head coach Chip Kelly. "All three of the coaches I've had here all stressed that we should treat rookies as family," says Miller. "Coach Harbaugh hammered into our minds that order to be a successful team, every player has to perform at their absolute best. There was no rookie hazing and no one ever worried about coming to work because they might be harassed or abused."
At the time, veterans on the team also played their part in making rookies feel welcome. That's something that continues today according to the 49ers' current rookie class. "We were successful as a unit precisely because the veterans took us under their wings," says Miller. "They showed us how to be professionals in every facet of the job. That's exactly how I treat rookies now, because their support and guidance was the backbone of my success."
You can read Miller's entire post at Chat Sports.com.