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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Deebo Samuel rips his 2022 performance: ‘It was awful’

Jun 6, 2023 at 1:40 PM--

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Deebo Samuel made it clear Tuesday he's on a mission to erase all memories of his performance during the 2022 season, which he feels was nowhere near his previously established level of play.

The 49ers' standout wide receiver/running back addressed that performance during a press conference on Day 1 of 49ers mandatory minicamp. He did not hold back when issuing a critique of how things went for him in 2022.

"Oh, it was awful," Samuel said. "Every aspect."

Samuel, 27, caught 56 passes for 632 yards in 13 games last season while rushing for 232 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries. There were moments on the field when Samuel certainly made his presence felt, but overall he fell short of making the type of impact he made in 2021, when he caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns with 59 carries for 365 yards and eight touchdowns while capturing honors as a first-team All-Pro.

Much of that can be traced back to the fact Samuel's 2022 offseason got off to an inauspicious start due to a contract dispute. Samuel was eligible for his first contract extension last offseason after joining the 49ers as a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and when negotiations went sour in April, Samuel asked to be traded from the 49ers. Samuel missed almost all of the 49ers' workout program after his trade demand, then joined the team for training camp after agreeing to a three-year, $71.55 million contract extension on July 31.

Samuel admitted Tuesday his contract dispute was a "distraction" and that it set him back in terms of conditioning and preparation.

"I was kind of behind a ball a little bit as far as being in my routine that I'll normally be in for the offseason, getting ready to play because, like I said, a lot of distractions were going on," Samuel said. "I kind of felt it, but I was just trying to will my way to help the team in every aspect possible."

There are no such distractions this year for Samuel, who is healthy and is focused on staying on schedule and being ready to put his best foot forward once training camp arrives in July ("I'll be more than ready to go first day. Yeah, for sure," Samuel said). Samuel spent some time recently breaking down film of last season with head coach Kyle Shanahan, after which he was more than ready to put last season in the rear-view mirror.

"Me and Kyle had a long meeting the other day," Samuel said. "We watched tape, we talked about it, we put it behind us and just going through the tape and just look how sluggish and how bad it looked on tape, like I said, just reflecting on last offseason, it kind of played a big role in that. I'll never put nothing like that back on tape again."

It won't be easy for Samuel to put up the kinds of numbers he reached in 2021 given the amount of talent surrounding him on offense this season with players such as running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. But there's little reason to think he can't improve on 2022 given the renewed focus he's showing this offseason. Samuel doesn't have any statistical goals in mind as he heads toward the 2023 season, but it's clear he wants to be prepared as he can to make a return to his old form in 2023, then will take the field and let the chips fall where they may.

"I'm not a guy that sets goals," Samuel said. "I just go out there and let things happen."

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