During his first stint with the 49ers, Brandon Lloyd wanted to be a rap star. On his second go-around with the team, he wants to be a teacher, something for which – unlike his rap career – he is receiving positive reviews.
“His routes are so good, man,” said Chris Cook, one of several cornerbacks who have raved about how much they've learned from going against the veteran receiver in practice.
“Everything he runs, it just looks like he's about to take off and go straight down the field. You can't really get good reads on his routes. It makes you stay honest and play your technique true.”
Rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson agreed.
“He runs great routes, excellent routes,” Johnson said. “... I haven't played in the league yet, but I can promise you he's probably the best in the league at doing that."
The biggest contrast between this year's 49ers training camp and the one from a year ago is that quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a number of wideouts – not just Anquan Boldin – he is comfortable targeting. Some like Stevie Johnson and Boldin get open by banging their bodies into smaller defensive backs. Lloyd creates separation with smoothness and veteran savvy.
As was the case last year with Boldin, it didn't take Kaepernick long to build trust with Lloyd.
"He has pretty easy body language to read," Kaepernick said. "And for the most part, he's open by a step or two. So that makes it a lot easier."
Lloyd's spot on the 53-man is not a given. Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Johnson appear to be the top three wideouts on the squad. And two more spots likely will go to youngsters Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington. At age 33 and with a slight frame, Lloyd also doesn't have value on special teams like receivers Kassim Osgood or Devon Wiley.
Still, after taking a year off from football in 2013, Lloyd has been perhaps the most consistently productive receiver when the entire offseason is taken into account.
Lloyd said he's trying to bring a bit of symmetry to his NFL career, which began in 2003 when the 49ers drafted him in the fourth round.
"When I was younger, I was in love with the winning attitude and culture that the (49ers) had. And when I was finally able to play for the team, it no longer had that," he said. "Now the team does have that. And San Francisco has always held a special place in my heart. And so I didn't explore any other options. I wanted to return to San Francisco and maybe bring a certain amount of closure to my career."