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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Talanoa Hufanga sets sights on Week 1, praises Malik Mustapha

Jun 5, 2024 at 12:48 PM

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Talanoa Hufanga is determined to be back on the field by Week 1. The San Francisco 49ers safety is diligently rehabbing the ACL injury that cut his 2023 season short, placing him on the injured reserve list in November. While he aims to return for the upcoming season's start, he plans to approach his recovery wisely.

"The goal is to be ready by Week 1," Hufanga told reporters after today's practice. "The goal is to be in training camp, not at the very beginning, but to ramp me up correctly, just so it's not throw you out there to the wolves and good luck. But trying to be smart with it. We've had plenty of conversations with the training staff, and putting me in the best possible situation to succeed for myself, and then try to help the team as well."

Patience is critical in recovering from such an injury. Hufanga is eager to join his teammates on the practice field but understands the importance of long-term goals and ensuring he is completely recovered.

"Well, as a competitor, I would love to say I want to be out there right now," Hufanga shared. "As my knee goes, it's just a slow progression, so you have to hit the stages and check off the stages and check off the boxes before you move to the next one.

"But I do wish I was out there right now, and I can't wait to be back out there. I tell the guys that all the time. But being patient is a big part of this process, for sure."

Last season, Hufanga had to watch as his teammates fought through the postseason and battled in the Super Bowl, ultimately falling short of their lofty aspirations. Was watching from the sidelines as his team went on a playoff run difficult?

"To me, I think it would be a bad spot for me, as a teammate, if I wasn't happy for everyone," Hufanga said of the 49ers' success last season. "When we sat down at the beginning of the year, our goal was to go to the Super Bowl. Was it to win? Yes. Did we come up short? Yes, as well. But for me, it was a spot for me to learn and truly appreciate what it's like to give myself to the teammates as well, as a leader, learning, teaching, evolving.

"I wasn't there the whole time because I did have my surgery and I was away from the team. But when I came back, it was like, how can I be a bright light, a great resource of teaching guys and understanding different concepts?

"We came up short, and our goal is to come back this year with a chip on our shoulder and win the big one."

Hufanga will mentor rookie Malik Mustapha this season, one of the 49ers' three fourth-round draft picks. While the All-Pro veteran hasn't been able to share the practice field with his new teammate yet, he offered an early scouting report.

"Beefy," Hufanga said of the rookie. "Man, that dude [will] just outlift everyone. He's like a mini Dre [Greenlaw], how they just walk around with this presence. But twitchy, athletic, smart, and a guy that's really just about his business and gets things done."

Hufanga also had the opportunity to watch another rookie last season. Ji'Ayir Brown filled in for Hufanga after the injury, starting five games down the stretch and two postseason contests, including the Super Bowl.

"For a guy to come in as a rookie, the light is never too bright for him," Hufanga commented. "I think what he did in the Super Bowl and what he did leading up to that has just been amazing."

With his sights set on a full recovery, Hufanga aims to make a significant impact with the 49ers during their 2024 campaign and Super Bowl push.

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