Most NFL teams held their rookie minicamps last weekend. A few more will begin their three-day sessions Friday. The 49ers? They are the lone team that has a rookie minicamp that begins Saturday.
“What we try to do is minimize the exposure to heavy training early on, try to get them into an acclimation period because we understand that a lot of them haven’t been doing a lot for the last month, month and a half,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week.
The 49ers’ rookies – except first-round pick Arik Armstead – arrived Monday. They were introduced to the team’s strength and conditioning staff, got their first taste of the weight room and have been attending meetings with the veterans who are on hand. They also have been on the field with the veterans as they go through the offseason program.
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All of that provides a ramp-up to the weekend minicamp, which is open to rookies, first-year players who did not accrue a season last year and tryout players.
“We’re trying to get them accustomed to how the day goes,” Baalke said. “We’re not going to put anything strenuous in front of them until the weekend. Trying to give them a four- to five-day window just to acclimate them to how we do things.”
The 49ers hope to avoid the season-ending injuries that struck Jacksonville and Denver during rookie minicamps last week. Dante Fowler, the Jaguars’ first-round pick and the third player taken in the draft, went down with an ACL tear. Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman, a third-round pick, suffered the same injury.
As former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh noted during the 2012 rookie minicamp, a number of players arrive out of shape. Baalke said that’s to be expected when, for the last month or so, the rookies have been flying all over the country for pre-draft visits.
“It really cuts into their ability to prepare,” he said. “And then you have the draft, you have the parties associated with the families after the draft. And then – boom – within a week they’re on a plane and they’re heading to their destination. So I don’t really think in this day and age you can expect them to come in and be in what we would consider football shape.”
Armstead is expected to arrive Friday. He said earlier this month that his responsibilities at Oregon were similar to what the 49ers expect from a defensive lineman and he didn’t anticipate issues learning the playbook.