There are no guarantees the 49ers will avoid injuries during the rookie minicamp over the weekend, but the organization has taken measures to reduce the risks.
The 49ers are one of just six teams to hold off on staging their rookie minicamp until two weeks after the draft. Last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos experienced season-ending knee injuries to draft picks. Jacksonville pass-rusher Dante Fowler (No. 3 overall) and Denver tight end Jeff Heuerman (third-round pick) sustained torn ACLs during their first exposures to NFL practices.
Because this week also marks the first time that most rookies can begin full-time training at NFL facilities, the 49ers’ decision to wait a week means the club can ease rookies into training before exerting more effort during the minicamp. Instead of going 0-to-100 in one day, the 49ers are taking the approach of gradually accelerating to the desired speed.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said this week on SiriusXM NFL Radio . “They happen. They happen in these sessions just as they do during training camp and during the preseason and regular season. It’s all part of it. But what we try to do is minimize the exposure to heavy training early on, try to get them into an acclimation period. We understand that a lot of them haven’t been doing a lot for the last month, month-and-a-half.”
After draft-eligible prospects take part in the NFL Scouting Combine in February and their respective pro days, their training regimes are typically not maintained. Players often make multiple trips to visit with NFL teams over a period of a couple of weeks leading up to the draft.
“It cuts into their ability to prepare,” Baalke said. “Then you have the draft. You have the parties associated with the families after the draft. Then, boom, within a week they’re on a plane and their heading to their destination. I don’t think you can expect them in this day and age to come in and be in football shape.”
The 49ers had 18 rookies – nine draft picks and nine undrafted free agents – report to the club on Monday. On Tuesday, they were introduced to the weight room, shown around the facility and began taking part in meetings.
“We’re trying to get them accustomed to how the day goes and we’re not going to put anything strenuous in front of them until the weekend, trying to give them a four- or five-day window of just acclimating to how we do things,” Baalke said.
The rookies will also get an introduction to the playbook and what’s expected during practices so the minicamp can be a more productive use of time, as well.
It should be noted the extra week before the start of the rookie camp is nothing new to the 49ers. And the time to acclimate did not prevent outside linebacker Darius Fleming from sustaining a season-ending torn ACL two weeks after the 2012 draft on the first day of the team's rookie camp.
First-round pick Arik Armstead is the only 49ers’ rookie who has yet to report this week due to NFL rules. If a rookie has not graduated, he is not allowed to report to any activity other than the official rookie minicamp until final exams have taken place. Armstead, who is limited due to Oregon's quarter system, is scheduled to report to rookie camp on Friday.