Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

‘Bourne’s gotten better each year’: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on Kendrick Bourne’s evolution as a receiver

Aug 17, 2020 at 4:26 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers will likely be without one of their tallest receivers this season — 6-foot-5 Jalen Hurd. The team fears he suffered a torn ACL on Sunday and will miss his second of two NFL seasons.

The 49ers lost their speedy offseason acquisition, Travis Benjamin, who opted out due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Summer injuries have Deebo Samuel (foot) and Richie James Jr. (hand) currently sidelined.

Those absences mean opportunities for others. While most have taken notice of rookies Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings taking advantage of those opportunities, veteran wideout Kendrick Bourne on Monday showed off his progress during the 49ers' first padded practice of training camp.

Yes, veteran.

It doesn't seem too long ago that Bourne was an undrafted rookie fighting for a roster spot. Now, he is among the team's most experienced receivers when it comes to working within a Kyle Shanahan offense.

"He's almost the vet in the room right now, which is somewhat funny to us because four years ago, he wasn't close to that," Shanahan said after Monday's practice. "It's been pretty cool to watch how he's come this far, and we're just getting started in camp, but I know some of the guys look up to him."

Bourne hauled in two red-zone scores on Monday and caught a 40-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo while going against safety Jimmie Ward. He's come a long way since that rookie offseason.

"We challenge to get the most out of him every single day, regardless of what the situation is," Shanahan said, "but if you go in and look at the cut-ups last year — and we had some really good play from Deebo and from Emmanuel (Sanders) — but you watch Bourne, he might not have had as many catches and stuff, but just his consistent play over last year, I thought he was one of our best guys, if not our best.

"He's always ready when he gets the ball. He keeps running his routes. You don't know where the coverage is going to take the ball, but Bourne's gotten better each year."

Shanahan isn't the only one who has noticed Bourne's improvement.

"On the field, I would definitely say that his routes have improved," cornerback Emmanuel Moseley said on Monday. "His confidence is still there, like always. And off the field, he's Kendrick Bourne. I love him, and he's just a clown, just a good guy, loving guy."

In June, Bourne shared his list of motivational goals as a player. Among them were to become a starter, be a leader, become a 1,000-yard receiver, and win a Super Bowl. The 49ers hope Bourne can achieve each of those goals.

"He knows the offense real well," Shanahan added. "He's played all the positions, and he's the same guy today as he was the first day he got here, at least as a person."

Bourne has one other goal — be legendary. He's been doing that off the field through his Bourne Blessed Foundation. Now, he is ready to do the same on the football field.

Bourne racked up a career-high 487 receiving yards and four touchdowns after hauling in 42 passes in 2018. Last season, he had a career-high five touchdown receptions on 30 catches that went for 358 receiving yards. The fourth-year receiver signed a one-year tender with the 49ers in April and is scheduled to become a free agent next year.

"I'm just trying to take it to the top," Bourne said in May. "I'm trying to be one of the top-paid guys, top-tier guys. That's what my goal has been since I was a kid. It's so crazy that it's here now. You've just got to take advantage of the opportunity, not let it slip by."

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