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49ers’ Kyle Shanahan on what’s different about Deebo Samuel this season

Sep 20, 2023 at 10:37 AM--

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This past offseason, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel had a very productive meeting with his head coach, Kyle Shanahan. On Tuesday, Shanahan admitted to initiating the conversation, knowing that his star receiver could do much more than he showed in 2022.

"Deebo comes to talk a lot, but I'd say I started that conversation a little bit," Shanahan told reporters.

Samuel held out for a new contract last offseason, even asking to be traded ahead of the draft. The rift between player and team eventually ended that July, at the start of training camp. By then, the receiver had already missed much of the offseason.

Samuel was coming off a breakout 2021 campaign that saw the player rack up 1,770 all-purpose yards and 14 total touchdowns. He didn't reach half those totals in 2022. Changes needed to be made, and the receiver was very receptive to his coach's feedback.

"It was a very positive, good conversation," Shanahan shared. "It wasn't hard or anything, but it was a very real conversation. That's what I love about Deebo so much, because he's an extremely real person, and if you talk to him the right way and you show him stuff, he's not going to B.S. us or himself."

Samuel, speaking with reporters this offseason, was embarrassed by his lack of production in 2022.

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

He admitted to being behind in his offseason routine because of the distraction of the contract dispute.

"Just going through the tape (with Shanahan) 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," Samuel said. "I'll never put nothing like that back on tape again."

The receiver was dedicated to being ready for the 2023 season. When he reported to training camp in July, reporters noticed the hard work had paid off. Samuel looked slimmer and in the best shape of his career.

"I didn't expect him to come have that reaction with you guys a couple hours later. But I was very pleased with the result," Shanahan said.

The coach admits Samuel may have also been disappointed about not being voted a team captain last year. That changed this year, with the wideout being named among the team's six captains this season.

"I didn't know that it would bother him," Shanahan admitted. "He didn't really let me know that, but after, I could tell it kind of did. I think he wanted it more than I realized. So I kind of had an idea he was disappointed last year. I thought it was really cool when I got those votes that the team had voted for him because they didn't the year before, even though it was close.

"And I think it was because of his training camp, how he came to training camp, the way he handled himself. Not just in practice but everywhere. And I think it was a very genuine vote by all the players."

Samuel has 11 receptions for 118 yards and seven carries for 46 yards and a touchdown through two games this season. His score on Sunday helped lift the 49ers to a 30-23 win over the division-rival Los Angeles Rams.

"He's in much better condition. He had a much better training camp," Shanahan said. "He was able to get through it all and get better throughout it. Last year, he had some setbacks coming in, wasn't able to go through training camp, and kind of was in and out throughout the whole year.

"And now, it's just like camp. He's in the best shape, doesn't have to come out as much, doesn't have to take as many plays off, and is playing as good as I've seen him play."

Right now, Samuel is focused on Thursday night's matchup against the New York Giants in the 49ers' home opener. A 3-0 start to the season would be tremendous for the Bay Area team and its fans.

"Looking back on them, they (the Giants) was just down 20 and came back and won, so it shows a lot of their character and the players that they have on the team," Samuel told Kay Adams this week. "Like, no matter how high, no matter how low the game is, it's always a chance to win."

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