Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Travis Benjamin after a year away: “I can’t wait to get back to football”

Feb 26, 2021 at 3:14 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers signed speedy former Browns and Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin to a one-year, $1.05 million contract last April. He was excited to be reunited with head coach Kyle Shanahan. San Francisco was so confident that Benjamin could contribute that it was willing to trade away its fastest wideout, Marquise Goodwin, during the draft.

Just over a month later, tragedy hit Benjamin's family. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has been going strong for nearly a year now, had hit home. The receiver lost his 77-year-old grandmother to complications from the virus. That changed Benjamin's outlook.

"I was ready for the season," Benjamin told the San Francisco Chronicle this week. "I was prepared. I was going to the facility. I was going to meetings. But I felt just overwhelmed by the uncertainty of where this might take me. And where this might take my family. Losing my grandmother … I just felt like I really wanted to be home with them and be in my comfort zone."

So Benjamin met with head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch, and his position coach, Wes Welker, to discuss his decision. Benjamin became one of 69 players to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season and one of three 49ers players to do so.

There were times when Benjamin regretted the decision, especially while watching teammates making plays on Sundays, but he was at peace with it and focused on 2021. The receiver is excited to get back to work after a year off spent training and maintaining his speed.

It sounds like the 49ers are ready to welcome Benjamin back and understood the receiver's decision. With so much uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season at the time, Shanahan, Lynch, and company didn't hold anything against players who felt it was more important to protect their families than navigate through playing football amid a potentially dangerous situation.

"I was walking out of the room, and they said, 'We will welcome you back next year with open arms,'" Benjamin said of his conversation with the 49ers. "That gave me the confidence that these guys believe in me."

Benjamin, 31, has spent eight seasons in the NFL, catching 208 passes for 3,143 yards with 19 touchdowns during that time. His best season came in 2015—a year after Shanahan departed the Browns—when the wideout recorded 68 receptions for 966 yards with five touchdowns.

Benjamin tied with Chris Owusu and Stephen Hill for the fastest 40-time (4.36 seconds) among the 47 collegiate receivers attending the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

"I'm excited," Benjamin added. "I can't wait to get back to football."

Click here to read the entire in-depth feature on Benjamin over at the San Francisco Chronicle.

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