Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

‘I was just learning as much as I could’: How Trey Lance used time away to prepare for 49ers training camp

Aug 9, 2021 at 9:14 AM--

Trey Lance looked like a different quarterback when he hit the practice field during training camp. Longtime team reporter Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area made headlines last week after being asked if he had ever seen a rookie quarterback as special as Lance in all of his years covering the team.

"No, not even close. Not even close. No," Maiocco responded.

While the list of rookie quarterbacks to choose from isn't overly impressive, it does paint a picture of just how prepared Lance has looked in his first NFL training camp. To say he has looked the best in nearly three decades is still telling.

It didn't come naturally, though. Lance didn't feel his performance during organized team activities (OTAs) was up to his own high expectations. Of course, that's natural for any rookie, especially one who played in one game since January 11, 2020, and is being thrown into one of the more complex offensive systems in the NFL.

"You get a guy for OTAs, they come in after rookie camp—and OTAs wasn't like past OTAs," head coach Kyle Shanahan told SI's Albert Breer. "We didn't do 10 practices. We didn't do the minicamp. The reps we had were all cut in half because of everything going on—and he was just trying to take everything in. He looked like a rookie quarterback."

That demanded some hard work. So that's exactly what Lance did during his "time off" between OTAs and training camp. He spent time in Atlanta, North Dakota, and Southern California. But the rookie quarterback wasn't vacationing. Instead, he was preparing himself to compete, to show his coaches that they made the correct choice when trading up nine spots in the draft to select him at No. 3 overall.

Breer broke down those 40 days off. Lance started in Atlanta working with throwing coach Quincy Avery for the first two weeks. That included throwing to a group of receivers, including teammate Mohamed Sanu, which you probably saw video of here. Knowing what Shanahan looks for, Avery had Lance work on his footwork.

"Trey's the most detailed guy I've ever worked with," Avery told Breer. "It's a challenge to coach him because he's such a perfectionist. He wants to be right every time."

After that, Lance headed back to Fargo, North Dakota, to work with former Bison quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Easton Stick for a week. Then it was off to Southern California for two weeks with mechanics coach John Beck. The two worked on Lance's efficiency as a thrower and built muscle memory when it comes to executing his passes.

"He's such a smart kid," Beck told Breer. "You give him a coaching point and it just makes sense to him. He gets it and he wants it. It all comes back to how Trey's working."

When Lance wasn't working on the football field, he was studying in his hotel room. The hard work paid off. Coaches and teammates—and even reporters like Maiocco—noticed the improvement once training camp practices started.

"I can tell [Lance] put himself in position to play this year with what he did in the 40 days away," Shanahan said.

For Lance, the push to improve in such a short period of time was necessary. The perfectionist wasn't about to let himself feel as unprepared as he was during organized team activities.

"I don't remember the last time I had 40 days off from anything," Lance told Breer. "But it's really just how you take it. And I wasn't taking it as days off. It was days to get better. … I was just learning as much as I could. I didn't feel like I could compete during OTAs because I didn't know enough. It's real tough to compete if you don't know what you're doing fully. So my biggest thing is just getting as comfortable with the playbook and the footwork, the mental and physical sides of things, as I can, so I'd have that opportunity to compete."

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