Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Deebo Samuel eager to move forward after a physically and emotionally difficult 2020

Jan 4, 2021 at 11:21 AM--

Deebo Samuel has faced his share of injuries throughout his football career, but nothing ever hit him as hard from a mental perspective as what he went through in 2020.

Fortunately, the challenges Samuel faced in 2020 are now almost completely in the rearview mirror, and as a result, he's itching to jump into the offseason and get prepared for 2021.

Samuel spoke in detail with reporters Monday about what he went through in 2020, revealing that he faced a level of emotional challenge along the way that he hadn't experienced previously in his career. Samuel went through two injury-shortened seasons during his college days at the University of South Carolina, but a Jones fracture in his foot he sustained during an offseason workout in June followed by hamstring problems that flared up during the regular season led him to get down on himself in a way he hadn't in the past.

"I never got down mentally like I did after I pulled my hamstring in the last game I had," said Samuel. "It took a toll on my body and it made me realize health is the most important thing and being available."

Samuel was limited to seven games in 2020 and caught 33 passes for 391 yards and one touchdown while chipping in eight attempts for 26 yards on the ground. The foot injury resulted in him being sidetracked throughout the offseason, and he never found a rhythm once the regular season got underway.

"Before I broke my foot, I would probably say I was in tune to everything," said Samuel. "The day I broke my foot, it was just like, 'Wow, what happened?' Just trying to come back and get in the groove of things, this year, I can count on both my hands how many practices I had. I kind of feel like due to the foot and then trying to come back, I never really got in the groove again. It kind of put more pressure on my body."

The foot injury can also be blamed in part for the eventual hamstring injuries that kept Samuel off the field for half of the regular season. Samuel told reporters the foot injury led to him overcompensating body-wise, which from there resulted in him pulling his hamstring.

"Just compensating on one side caused other things to happen, which is how I pulled my hamstring twice this year," said Samuel. "It was a rough year for me."

Samuel missed the bulk of the final four games of the season due to his hamstring problems, which led to things getting bad enough for him while the team was cooped up in a hotel in Arizona that he found himself needing to lean on general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.

"I use football as a getaway," said Samuel. "So when football was taken away you just think about everything you've been through in life and it kind of breaks you down. I was going through it bad. I talked to John and Kyle like two, three times a week just to keep my head on straight."

With the 2020 season now in the books after a 49ers loss in the season finale to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Samuel is now close to completely turning the page on last year and moving ahead to the upcoming season. The first step will be for him to use the month of January to make sure his hamstring problems are completely behind him.

"The hamstring right now, I would say a week or two out of being 100 percent," said Samuel.

Once he returns to full health, Samuel fully intends to attack the offseason head-on.

"I'm going to be locked in as soon as I get the clearance from the training staff in February," said Samuel. "Then after that, it's off to the races."

Those are encouraging words after the type of season Samuel and the 49ers had. Samuel clearly wants to erase 2020 after a promising 2019 rookie season that saw him put up 57 catches for 802 yards and three touchdowns. At the same time, he wants to do what he can to help the 6-10 49ers forget what was a disappointing season in general after advancing to the Super Bowl the year before. There's no doubt his health will be instrumental in helping the team achieve that goal.

"The sky's the limit at this point for this team," said Samuel. "We know the things we're capable of and know what type of team we have, from the coaches to the players to everybody else. We're just trying to get back on track."

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