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SANTA CLARA – Brandon Thomas’ rookie season, in essence, ended during a pre-draft workout with the New Orleans Saints when he sustained a torn right ACL in a routine evaluation drill.
His draft stock dropped, but the 49ers cushioned his fall when they selected the Clemson offensive lineman in the third round with the 100th overall pick.
“I felt great about a team like the 49ers taking a chance on me and bringing me in here, rehabbing me,” Thomas told CSNBayArea.com this week. “It means a lot to me. It shows they saw a lot in me as a player before my injury. I’m thankful for the 49ers organization. I love it here, so it’s a win-win for me.”
Thomas will not play this season, though there is a chance he will start a three-week window next week in which he can “practice” with the team while remaining on the non-football injury list. In Thomas’ case, practice would consist of stretching with his teammates, taking part in limited individual drills and watching from practice field.
Thomas never did have any illusions of being able to contribute as a rookie. That hope ended in April when he sustained a season-ending knee injury during a drill in which he was asked to maneuver over bags and change directions.
Thomas’ injury opened a debate of what NFL teams ask of players during pre-draft workouts.
“I understand they want to look at players,” Thomas said. "This is a multi-billion dollar business, so I understand that the team wants a good look at players and everything. I respect that. But it should be that you do certain things at certain times.”
Nonetheless, Thomas is viewing this season as a positive experience.
“I’m learning the playbook, learning the ropes around here and I’ll be ready,” Thomas said.
He might be needed next season. Thomas was an All-ACC first-team selection last season while playing left tackle. The 49ers project him at guard. And depending on whether the franchise re-signs Mike Iupati in the offseason, the 49ers could have an opening next season at left guard.
Thomas sustained a torn left ACL in high school. He said his knee feels a lot better during this rehabilitation period. He has progressed to the point in which he is running straight ahead. He should be able to participate in the team’s offseason program in the spring.
“We’re taking it slow right now,” he said. “There’s no need to rush anything. I just need to get myself healthy, 110 percent, so I can come back.”