SANTA CLARA – When the 49ers selected defensive lineman Arik Armstead with the No. 17 overall pick of the draft, one of the players to whom he drew immediate comparisons was Arizona’s Calais Campbell.
Campbell is 6 foot 8, 282 pounds. Armstead is 6-7, 292.
Campbell has emerged into one of the top players in the league at his position. With 43.5 sacks in his six years as a starter, Campbell was finally recognized with a selection to the Pro Bowl last year.
Veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett was with Campbell every step of the way with the Cardinals. And he believes Armstead has more “upside” than Campbell, who was a second-round pick in the 2008 draft.
Dockett said Armstead has limitless potential due to his size, strength and athleticism, as well as his resources with the 49ers.
“Don’t get me wrong, Calais Campbell is a dominant football player,” Dockett said on Tuesday.
But Dockett said that Armstead is stepping into a more-favorable position with the 49ers because of the Mark Uyeyama, director of human performance, and his staff, which includes nutritionist Kurt Schmidt.
“And he’s got a lot of veterans he can learn from,” Dockett said. “He’ll be able to pick the game up a little faster.
“And he’s got a coach that’s going to take care of him and not wear-and-tear his body. . . He’s got a lot of upsides.”
Dockett said he often tells his younger teammates that they could not have played in the NFL when he was breaking into the league. But this training camp under 49ers coach Jim Tomsula is a departure from the training-camp mindset that has been pervasive in the NFL for decades. Tomsula has made a point to pay particular attention to the well-being of his veteran players to make sure they are not worn down for the regular season.
“He wants to make sure we have all of our weapons come September,” Dockett said. “You don’t win games the first week of training camp.”
Although Dockett said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians also tried to manage the practice time of the veteran players, he said it has always been standard for his coaches to try to work their players into the ground early in training camp.
Tomsula has already shown care in managing of practice snaps for Dockett, Joe Staley and Reggie Bush.
“I played with Denny Green, so that speaks for itself,” Dockett said. “I give him a lot of credit for drafting me and giving me an opportunity. But there were times with him where I didn't know if I wanted to play football anymore.
“What’s crazy is I’m able to tell these guys here how different the game has changed from when I first came into the league and we should definitely be appreciative and definitely work harder to better our game. When I first came everything it was pads, pads, pads and they didn’t care about you -- very disposable. They actually care about players now, so the game’s changed.”
Now, it’s up to Armstead to take advantage of his opportunity, Dockett said.
“As far as playing ability, that’s on Arik,” Dockett said. “How bad does he want it? How bad does he want to train in the offseason? The biggest thing is he asks questions and he listens and responds. Some guys come in and think they know everything. He’s not like that. He asks questions and he wants to learn. He’s very humble. That’s what I really like about him the most.”
Good times are ahead for Armstead, who signed a rookie contract that fully guarantees $9.842 million, and apparently for Dockett, too.
Dockett said he looks forward to taking advantage of Armstead on “rookie night,” so he can “tap his credit card. I’m really going to like that.”