Tim Heitman/Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman/Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk on growing relationship with QB Trey Lance: ‘We’ve got to be connected’

Jul 27, 2022 at 1:14 PM--

Time will tell if quarterback Trey Lance chooses wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk as a favorite go-to target in his first year as starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, but so far the two of them are at least heading in that direction.

Aiyuk has been building a connection with Lance on and off the field since the 49ers drafted Lance last season. That connection has grown over the past few months in particular, with the two of them training and preparing together throughout the offseason schedule. It's not the first time the two have trained together, but it's safe to say their chemistry picked up a notch this time around.

"This is my second time training with Trey, but he talked to me all the time. I guess he used to say I never talked to him, I used to give him dirty looks, apparently," Aiyuk told reporters after practice on Wednesday. "…This second year, we got to stay in the house together with a couple of other people and just hang out by the fire, talk, really just get to know who he is, and him getting to know who I am outside of playing football because that's really the only time we get to see each other. So being in there a couple of weeks, and working hard, putting in hours, grinding together, and then hanging out, just chilling afterward. It's cool. It's a great thing."

Aiyuk posted some video in June of himself catching passes from Lance, while also defending Lance against reports claiming he was having issues with arm fatigue. It's all part of an important process for Aiyuk and Lance, and for a 49ers offense that will be in transition to a new starting quarterback after four-plus seasons with Jimmy Garoppolo.

"That's the quarterback. We've got to be connected on the field and off," Aiyuk said.

There will be a number of positives for Aiyuk and other 49ers receivers with Lance as the full-time starter, with one of them being Lance's ability to extend the field. That may require Aiyuk to be on the lookout for things he may not have seen from Garoppolo, but he'll be ready for the task.

"You just have to be ready on every single play," Aiyuk said. "In the past, where you may not have gotten the ball on certain plays just because we want to get the ball here, you have to be ready on any play just because it's a possibility that you might get the ball even though we haven't thrown that ball here or in the spot in years past. But he definitely does. He extends the field. 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."

The 49ers seem unanimous in their belief that Lance has grown significantly since the team's decision to select him in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Aiyuk has seen the same, both in terms of his on-field progress and his growth as a leader.

"I've seen a whole lot from him, especially since we've started this offseason program, how much he's grown, just seeing him throw the football, leading the locker room, connecting with guys," Aiyuk said in June, per NBC Sports Bay Area. "Yeah, we have a special quarterback."

Eventually Aiyuk and Lance will need to carry their chemistry over to gamedays, but what they did during the offseason can certainly be viewed as a sign of progress. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has taken notice too and likes what he sees.

"The tighter people are at any position, the tighter your team is is always an advantage, but especially a receiver [and a quarterback]. … When those guys can react to stuff the same — it's nice to be tight but you've also got to get those reps on the field together too," Shanahan said.

David Bonilla contributed to this article.

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