SANTA CLARA -- Was Vernon Davis’ absence through the 49ers’ offseason program a good thing for backup tight end Vance McDonald?
“Yes. I’d say, personally for me, absolutely,” McDonald said Friday at 49ers training camp.
If the first day of practice was any indication, McDonald took advantage of the time during the offseason when he was the 49ers’ undisputed No. 1 tight end.
“It’s almost like the pressure that you got to step up and say, ‘Now, this is what we have. You’re the No. 1 tight end,’” McDonald said. “I think it was a very good start for me for next season.”
McDonald said the offseason enabled him to get a lot more comfortable with his role in the offense, as well as handling those blazing fastballs from quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It showed on Thursday, when McDonald made an exceptional catch at the sideline over Antoine Bethea.
“It’s experience with Kap,” McDonald said. “You don’t have that kind of quarterback in college, and here it’s a matter of getting experience with him, getting reps with him, timing wise, what to expect. You know what to expect, it’s a 180 mph ball.”
McDonald caught only eight passes while playing nearly 50 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps. He said he feels more comfortable catching Kaepernick’s darts after a complete offseason with him.
“It’s just muscle memory,” he said. “Coming in Year 1, you not only have to think about use my stem to trigger a safety one way to get open over here, you do that and you think about that, and you turn your head and the ball is flying at you it’ll take your head off. Now, that I’m comfortable in the offense, it’s one more thing you get to focus on a lot more.”
Davis did not attend the 49ers’ offseason program, but he reported on Wednesday with the rest of his veteran teammates. McDonald said he was glad to see him.
“We’re going to win more games with Vernon,” McDonald said. “I’ll be the first in line to say it. I think he made the right decision to come back. And everybody was more than happy to welcome him back.”