Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

‘It’s a big family’: 49ers’ unique culture apparent to undrafted free agent rookies

May 25, 2020 at 9:35 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers undrafted free agent running backs are doing their best to absorb as much information as allowed during these abnormal times. The rookies, like JaMycal Hasty of Baylor, don't have the benefit of meeting face-to-face with their position coaches or teammates due to restrictions in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Hasty, along with Salvon Ahmed of Washington and fullback Josh Hokit of Fresno State, rely on four-hour Zoom meetings and use the rest of their time at home to do whatever else they can on their own. The learning curve, for some, is massive. They aren't just learning how to play their position at the NFL level. They are learning how the entire offense works. It will make them better contributors when their names are finally called.

"We're trying to learn everything," Hasty recently told The Athletic. "Not only what we do, but as well as the quarterback, the line, what they're doing outside receiver-wise."

So far, the unique culture of the defending NFC Champion 49ers has been apparent, even as they observe from their couches or home offices. There are position meetings for a couple of hours. There are also rookie-only meetings led by running backs coach Bobby Turner that allow the newcomers to absorb even more information and, hopefully, get up to speed.

The personalities of the more established players within the group show themselves during meeting breaks, Ahmed told Matt Barrows.

"It's only been a little bit of time that I've been in this organization," Ahmed said, "but it's clear why they're so successful. The culture is just different, you know?"

Added Ahmed: "It's a big family. Everyone's trying to help each other. Whether you're a rookie or a veteran, everyone's trying to, you know, look out for each other's best interest."

That's good for this year's crop of undrafted free agent running backs because it will be even tougher to crack the 53-man roster this season, especially without offseason practices to prove themselves. While Raheem Mostert may be the only lock for a job, there is a lot of depth within the group. $2 million of Tevin Coleman's salary for the upcoming season became guaranteed on April 1, and he is due $4.55 million in the final year of his two-year deal.

There is also Jerick McKinnon, who is attempting to return from an ACL injury he initially sustained before the 2018 season, and which had complications before last season. He has yet to take a regular-season snap with the 49ers.

Mostert warns doubters that McKinnon looks healthy, ready to go, and could shock a few people this season.

"I'm excited, man," Mostert said last week during a conference call with reporters. "It's going to be a surprise for everyone."

The 49ers also have Jeff Wilson Jr., a running back who has spent the last two seasons on and off the practice squad. San Francisco typically carries three running backs into the season, and will likely rely on one or two spots on the practice squad to carry others, as it has done in the past.

While there are opportunities to grab a spot on the 53-man roster, the 12-man practice squad could also be an option for the undrafted free agent running backs. Again, that would have been made easier under normal circumstances.

"Right now, especially for the guys that are undrafted, it's a critical time to get their careers started," Mostert said. "And it's sad that we're going through this pandemic, but one thing that I would like to mention to everyone is we've all got to stay positive. There's always going to be brighter days, no matter what. There's always light at the end of the tunnel."

Click here to read the entire feature from Matt Barrows over at The Athletic.

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