SANTA CLARA -- When the 49ers assembled for their first minicamp under Chip Kelly in April, there was plenty of huffing and puffing and hands on hips. On Thursday, the last day of their final minicamp, the 49ers were fast and efficient.
During team drills, the closest spring practices get to real action, the offense snapped the ball every 16 seconds.
“I think they’re really good," Kelly said of the 49ers' fitness. "I mentioned it the other day -- their first exposure was that second or third week (of) April and that first minicamp. They’re light years ahead of where we were in the first minicamp."
Kelly's emphasis on conditioning -- from the individualized shakes players get after practice to the GPS devices that track their every step -- received plenty of attention when Kelly coached the Philadelphia Eagles.
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In Santa Clara it's not as big a deal.
For one, the 49ers strength and conditioning staff already has been doing most of the innovative things that got so much scrutiny in Philadelphia. There were 90 shakes waiting for players when they stepped off the practice field five years ago during Jim Harbaugh’s offseason practices.
An exception is the daily urine testing that measured players' hydration levels and which some in Philadelphia found too intrusive. The 49ers aren’t being asked to take a cup into the bathroom; Instead their daily fitness is monitored in other ways.
Kelly is not driving the team's fitness program. Instead that role belongs to Mark Uyeyama, whose title, director of human performance, speaks to the team's high-tech approach to conditioning.
"I think what he’s doing and what we do out in the training sessions," Kelly said. "I think they have really complemented each other.”
That the 49ers players mostly aced their spring conditioning test probably has more to do with the human factor than technology.
Kelly has a very young team, but with key veterans spread throughout. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman, tackle Joe Staley, safety Antoine Bethea and receiver Torrey Smith not only took to the pace of practice but also the new offensive and defensive systems, both of which are far different than what the 49ers have run in the past.
"It's just all about embracing it, not complaining or thinking negative about it," Bowman said. "Just embrace it. Ninety other guys are out there doing it. Just accept it and have that competitive nature … and let the coaches see that you don't care what he's going to throw at you, you're going to embrace it and try to do your best."
Kelly noted that the old timers also are among the most fit players on the squad.
"Those guys are kind of setting the tone for the younger guys on how it’s supposed to happen," he said. " … Some of the best players I’ve been around have been the older veteran players because they actually take care of their bodies better than the younger guys do and that’s why they’ve lasted so long. I think it’s a credit to them. Joe Staley’s played in this league for such a long time because Joe’s always in shape."
Matt Barrows will host a chat -- all 49ers-related questions welcome -- at 11 a.m. PT on Tuesday. Here’s the link.