Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh is eager to kick off training camp and a whole new season, after falling short in the Super Bowl in February. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Recent weeks haven’t necessarily been all peaches and cream for the 49ers.
Top wide receiver Michael Crabtree blew out his Achilles’ tendon and will likely be lost for most (if not all) of the 2013 season. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a buzz in the media and with some fans for posting a picture of himself wearing a Miami Dolphins hat. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks was involved in an off-the-field incident with a teammate that sparked a police investigation (which led to no charges being filed). And, a recent trade for Tampa Bay cornerback Eric Wright (whose character also had come under scrutiny because of some incidents) was voided because Wright failed his physical.
But beginning Thursday, all those items take a backseat. With 49ers veterans scheduled to report Wednesday to summer training camp in Santa Clara to join the rookies who reported last Friday, the Niners will hold their first full-squad practice Thursday. And for head coach Jim Harbaugh, it means a rebirth.
Mr. Enthusiasm, who still carries around the disappointment of a close loss to the Ravens in the Super Bowl in February, begins a whole new season. Five months of personnel moves, minicamps, conditioning and scheming are coming to an end. And he couldn’t be happier.
Though he’s been coaching rookies and assorted veterans since this past weekend, the first full-squad workout is something special, he says.
“It’s better than Christmas,” he told reporters this week.
“It’s a happening when the season starts, especially when all of the veterans are here,” he added. “The first day, I always think of it as New Years. It’s like your birthday. It’s like the start of a long journey whose conclusion isn’t certain. It’s all of those things on one day. I’m very much looking forward to that on Wednesday and getting started. Because once you start, the instincts, the timing, the habits, come right back. So, definitely looking forward to getting started.”
This camp and this season, the 49ers will be under much greater scrutiny than in years past.
Coming off two NFC West titles, two NFC Championship Game berths and a Super Bowl appearance, Harbaugh and the 49ers now are a national story. Can they put together a third straight dynamic season? Can Colin Kaepernick repeat his sensational performance? Can the loss of Crabtree be overcome? Which rookies will step up to contribute in big ways? Will Justin Smith again be a force after offseason surgery?
Now, Harbaugh gets to return to the field each day to find the answers.
“All of us that are involved in football recognize this as the start of the new year,” he said.
Niners players, too, are eager to get back to work.
“We have our team back for the most part, added some other pieces,” Smith told the Associated Press Tuesday. “The goal is still the same as last year. Got close. Didn’t get it done. Hopefully, we get it done this year.”