Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: QB Trey Lance excited to have Deebo back; WR Danny Gray says ‘It’s all coming together’; OL Spencer Burford keeps dancing

Aug 6, 2022 at 2:23 PM--

The 49ers cut things fairly short when it came to post-practice media sessions on Saturday, but that doesn't mean there weren't any items of interest to pass along.

Quarterback Trey Lance and rookie wide receiver Danny Gray were the only players to speak to reporters after practice on Saturday, and each of them talked about a number of topics. Lance spoke about what he's seen from a number of veterans and young players on offense, while Gray discussed where he is in his development since being selected by the 49ers in Round 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

And there was another rookie on Saturday who put on a memorable show at practice, albeit in a unique way.

Here's a rundown of what was discussed Saturday afternoon.

* Welcome back Deebo: Deebo Samuel is still working to get back to full speed after missing practice time while his new contract was being negotiated, but Lance couldn't be happier to see the star receiver back in the lineup. Samuel's contentious contract issues have become a thing of the past, as he's quickly been welcomed back into the fold on and off the field.

"It's been awesome to have him back," Lance said. "In the locker room his energy's been back, in the meeting room. He's just a high-energy guy, fun to be around."

In the meantime, Lance says he and Samuel have been working together when they can to get everything between them on the same page.

"Anytime we're both feeling good after practice," Lance said. "Yesterday was a little bit lower volume than today was, so anytime we're able to get extra work. Ray-Ray [McCloud], George [Kittle] during special teams, Deebo's on some special teams, so it's hard during those in-between periods to get extra work with them, and obviously we use him in so many different ways. So there's so many things we can do to get extra reps outside of just throwing routes."

* Things are becoming clear for Gray: The rookie speedster Gray is continuing to learn the ropes in the NFL after a successful college career at SMU, with the help of a talented defense and a head coach that will push him in Kyle Shanahan. Given Shanahan's background as a wide receiver, it's no surprise he's extra intense on Gray and the other players at the position. But Gray has been able to adjust well.

"He takes the receiver position very, VERY hard," Gray said of Shanahan. "So we've got to be detailed in everything we do. But it's just like everywhere else. You've got to come in, got to know your job, got to know what's going on. So it's just about he just wants us to do everything correct. That's it."

Gray came to the NFL known for his next-level speed but has been working on improving some of the finer points of his game as he prepares for play on Sundays. He was asked after practice how he's been progressing in developing his route tree as well as different ways to attack defenses.

"It's coming day-by-day," Gray said. "I'm learning how to turn the speed on, turn it off, getting in and out of my breaks at the top of my routes with controlling my speed. So everyday I'm learning new things, and I'm developing my craft. So it's all coming together."

It doesn't hurt Gray's development that the 49ers seem to have as talented of a defense as they've had in some time. Gray's been getting tested, and he says he's been getting better for it.

"To me, we've got the best defense in the NFL," Gray said. "Going against those guys, every day we get better. Every day we learn new things from them. It's just a great competitive atmosphere."

Lance likes what he's seen from Gray in their camp opportunities with true practice reps after working with him in a more limited capacity during offseason workouts.

"This is the first time I've gotten live reps and one-on-one reps with him," Lance said. "He's done a great job. He's getting better every single day. We give him a hard time sometimes but he's really done a great job. He's growing every day and he's got great guys ahead of him to look at."

* More praise for Brandon Aiyuk: No 49ers player has drawn as many rave reviews during training camp as wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Players and media have routinely praised Aiyuk for his camp performance as well as his level of preparedness after a strong offseason.

Lance provided his latest round of praise to Aiyuk on Saturday, saying the third-year receiver is accomplishing his goal of taking his game to another level.

"Give the credit to Brandon," Lance said. "That's the work he put in. I've been saying it this whole spring, summer. He was locked in this offseason. I think he had a goal of separating himself and becoming kind of a different player, and he's done that, man. He's in a great spot right now physically, mentally. He's seeing the game, he's feeling the game. He's killing guys right now. He's making some really, really big plays and separating himself. So I know he's going to continue to do that. That's a credit to the way he comes every day."

* What happened on that pick? Lance was on the opposite end of one of the highlight plays of Saturday's practice -- a pick-six by safety Jimmie Ward. But Lance rebounded to lead the offense to a touchdown during a two-minute drill. After practice he spoke about what went wrong for him on Ward's pick-six.

"Zero pressure. Just gotta get the ball out faster," Lance said. "Jimmie made a great play. It sucks, it's frustrating, but at the end of the day I'm here to turn the page, and I'm really glad we're going against this defense."

* Dancin' machine: Rookie offensive lineman Spencer Burford has started to cast a positive impression with his play while running with the first team at right guard. On Saturday, it was Burford's turn to lead the "Rookie Hype Machine," and he took the opportunity to show some of the moves he's been able to pick up away from the offensive line.

The fans loved what they saw from Burford on Saturday, and Lance has liked what he's seen from the rookie as well during first-team reps.

"Spencer's done a great job," Lance said. "I think he's started almost every single first-team rep with us. He's done a great job. Super-mature dude."

Burford wasn't expected by outside observers to be in this position at this point in training camp, but at the moment it looks like he's got the edge in the competition at the right guard spot with former starter Daniel Brunskill getting work at center. If he continues on his current trajectory, Burford will be joining Lance in the starting lineup when the 49ers play the Chicago Bears in Week 1.

"I had high expectations for him coming in," Lance said. "I had watched him play. He's lived up to all of them. He's done a great job. I'm not obviously in the offensive line with him every day and I know he's grown and getting better every single rep. But just the way he carries himself, he comes to work every day like a pro. That's a lot for a rookie also."


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