Published November 20, 2014
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Ted Ginn Jr. sprinted downfield on several deep routes and looked back in his element again.
The sunny, breezy Bay Area morning wasn't quite Miami, but he had no complaints on his first formal day of work with the San Francisco 49ers. It didn't hurt having two former No. 1 picks throwing the ball his way, either: Alex Smith and David Carr.
"A new beginning just to go out and see the guys cheer me on and help me out and be brothers," Ginn said Friday, after sporting his new No. 19 Niners jersey. "There's really no more Dolphin talk. I'm out here, I'm having fun. I'm enjoying myself and I'm running a new system in a new town. That's all it's about. 'Hey, you let me go,' that's what it was. Just leave it alone."
Ginn is so eager to get going across the country after his trade from the Dolphins on April 16 that he even played catch with Smith last week after a drizzle turned into a downpour.
Ginn's speed as a receiver and return man could be a big help for an offense hurt by inconsistency during an 8-8 season last year — not to mention all the problems on special teams.
The rookies, who were set to practice separately later in the day, watched the veterans' morning workout. Left guard Mike Iupati, the 17th overall pick out of Idaho, observed the offensive linemen and was impressed.
"The tempo of the game, I was overwhelmed," said Iupati, who along with No. 11 pick and fellow offensive lineman Anthony Davis are expected to become starters at some point as rookies.
Coach Mike Singletary can relate. The Hall of Fame linebacker pulled a hamstring on his first day with the Chicago Bears, who picked him in the second round in 1981.
Heading into his second full season as head coach, Singletary had a message for everybody before the team hit the field for an offseason practice minus pads.
"I already told them this morning, 'This is going to be the most competitive camp that we've had,'" Singletary said. "It's going to be all about competition. I told them when they look around the room, it's going to be 53 guys that make this team and everybody that's in this room has a chance to make the team, if they can understand the opportunity at hand.
"They just need to come out and compete every day and understand what we are trying to do here as a championship team in the making."
The confident Ginn is sure he will find a place as a key contributor for San Francisco.
The 49ers traded a fifth-round draft pick to get him, taking a chance on Ginn despite his disappointing stint in Florida.
"They told me just to go out and control what I can control," Ginn said. "The first thing I can control is learning my playbook, so that's what I'm trying to do. As I learn my playbook I can come out and play faster than I did today, and just keep on pushing and I think we'll be fine."
Dolphins fans began booing Ginn the day he was drafted and never stopped. Selected ninth overall in 2007, Ginn made only five touchdown catches in three seasons while averaging 13.0 yards per reception. He has shown more explosive play-making ability on special teams, and the 49ers are counting on that.
"I really like his attitude, really like him as a person," Smith said. "He seems to have picked up the offense really fast. He's extremely talented, so I think it's just a matter of him getting comfortable with the offense and us building a good relationship."
Niners personnel chief Trent Baalke, the new man in charge following the abrupt departure of general manager Scot McCloughan in March, watched practice on the sideline.
As many times as Baalke and Singletary have said Smith is their guy going forward, the 2005 No. 1 pick knows that only goes so far — especially with a reliable backup like Carr, the top pick in 2002, looking to unseat him.
"'I'm the guy, I'm the guy, I'm the guy' doesn't mean anything," Smith said. "I'm going to have to go out there in Game 1 and prove that I'm the guy. And then I'm going to have to go out in Game 2 and prove it again. This league's not about talk. I'm going to have to go out on the field and prove it with my level of play and consistency."
Smith took over as starter from the departed Shaun Hill after halftime Oct. 25 at Houston. Smith paid attention on draft day but insists he wasn't worried about the team picking another quarterback.
"I think he's responded very well," Singletary said. "Alex continues to grow into that position and really begin to exude the leadership skills that we hoped that he had."
Notes: Veterans absent included RB Frank Gore, CBs Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements, LB Manny Lawson and DT Aubrayo Franklin. Most didn't make the trip from out of state for the one-day voluntary workout. ... DE Kentwan Balmer, who finished last season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, ran hill sprints on the nearby bump Singletary calls "Mt. Pain" ... San Francisco signed rookie free agent LB Brandon Long to a two-year contract.