When you spend the summer pushing a 5,400-pound SUV up and down the street, a 292-pound defensive end doesn’t seem all that imposing.
That was part of 49ers tackle Trent Brown’s regimen over the past month and a half, what he called “an old-school workout.” The routine didn’t cost a dime, but it had some unusual elements, including shoving his black 2002 GMC Yukon Denali XL around the neighborhood and racing his brother up and down sand dunes.
“That’s what I used to do and it worked. So I just went back to what worked for me,” said Brown, 23, who spent time in Georgia and Texas. “I didn’t go pay for a trainer and do all that other stuff. I needed to get to where I started, refocus at home, no distraction. Just me and my family working hard.”
Brown, a seventh-round pick last year, played well as a starter at right tackle in the final two games of 2015. But he disappointed during the 49ers’ spring practices.
Brown dealt with nagging injuries and a recurring stomach bug that had him feeling rotten and – the kiss of death in a Chip Kelly-led offense – playing sluggishly.
Veteran Erik Pears lined up at right tackle with the first string for most of the offseason; Brown was relegated to the second unit.
The offensive line, especially the right side, was notoriously soft last season. The 49ers gave up 53 sacks – only the Tennessee Titans’ 54 sacks allowed was worse – and mustered only 96.5 rushing yards a game after averaging 136.0 yards in 2014. Right tackle was highlighted as a “a position of need” during free agency and the draft.
On Tuesday, it seemed to be an area of strength. The 49ers held their first padded, full-contact session of the year and two offensive linemen stood out. One was tackle Anthony Davis, who has dropped more than 30 pounds since he last played in 2014 and is noticeably more nimble on his feet.
Davis is working with the third-team offense, which allowed him to go against an array of pass rushers, including 6-foot-7, 300-pound first-round draft pick DeForest Buckner and impressive fifth-round pick Ronald Blair. Davis was sure-footed against both.
Brown, meanwhile, regained his starting role for the beginning of training camp and also was stout Tuesday. At 6-8 and 355 pounds, he is the biggest 49er, and his matchup against Arik Armstead – who is 6-7 and 292 pounds and has been the team’s most ferocious defensive lineman early in camp – was tantamount to a heavyweight title fight during pass-rush drills. The two giants battled to a draw.
“That’s what people want to see,” Brown said. “They want to see big on big. I think that just flips a switch in our head when we see each other. We just give each other the best we can.”
Brown said every offense he’s been in since he began college has had a hurry-up element and his community college team ran a no-huddle offense. In that way, he said, Kelly’s lightning-pace attack has not been a surprise. He said he just needed the summer to feel more like himself and to ready himself mentally.
He said it also doesn’t hurt to have a veteran such as Davis pushing him at the position.
“It’s camp,” Brown said. “There’s going to be competition. If anything, I feel like he just upped the competition, and the morale in the whole room and everyone’s just going to get better.”