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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Azeez Al-Shaair bounces back from scary practice moment, assesses Trey Lance’s improvement

Jul 27, 2022 at 1:11 PM--

There was a scary moment during Wednesday's practice when San Francisco 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair collided with fullback Kyle Juszczyk. It was worse than it looked, though. It turns out the linebacker just had the wind knocked out of him when the elbow brace on his left was driven into his midsection during the hit.

"Get up! You alright," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, a former NFL linebacker, said into Al-Shaair's helmet speaker.

Both Al-Shaair and Juszczyk returned to practice.

"I play defense for a reason," Al-Shaair said. "I don't like getting hit. I like hitting people [instead]. He ran into me, and I got that brace on, so it hit me in my stomach. So I knocked the wind out of myself, honestly."

Al-Shaair underwent left elbow (previously reported as shoulder surgery) and left knee surgery after the season. He was expected to return for training camp, so for fans, it was good to see the talented linebacker return to the practice field.

One of the hot topics of training camp is second-year quarterback Trey Lance. The defense is getting used to going against an improved Lance, who will be the 49ers' Week 1 starter in Chicago.

"He extends the field," wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said. "He makes those safeties back up, get out of the pedal fast, and I think that's great just because it will give us all the underneath stuff that we love to throw as well."

"Seeing him this year, you can tell that he's ready," Al-Shaair said. "He's more poised. I feel like the decisions he's making when you talk about throwing the ball—he's always had an arm—it's literally just different. You can see it. When he came in, you're like, 'Damn, the dude is throwing the ball so hard.' He's not throwing picks because we can't catch them.

"Now, the way that he operates, he's just so much on point. That's what you expect over time from somebody who takes their craft pretty serious."

It's not just Lance's physical traits that will challenge opposing defenses. Al-Shaair raved about Lance's improved ability to dissect what is happening around him while on the practice field.

"His overall processing is faster because it's just repetitive," Al-Shaair said. "You see the same reps, the same thing over and over for a whole year ... you can tell he's definitely way more comfortable, obviously, in the second year than you are in the first."

With Lance taking over the reins from Jimmy Garoppolo, the 22-year-old quarterback has been getting a lot of work this offseason. Taking over the top spot on the depth chart will help push his development into overdrive.

The 49ers will return to the practice field on Thursday at 10:25 a.m. PT.

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