Jenkins begins camp behind experienced receivers

July 24, 2012, 5:13 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- It's not often that a first-round draft pick shows up to training camp with three proven players clearly ahead of him on the depth chart.But that is A.J. Jenkins' situation.Jenkins hit the practice field Monday, along with other 49ers rookies and selected veterans. The remaining the veterans are scheduled to report to camp on Thursday with the first full-squad practice slated for Friday.The 49ers have three established wide receivers on the roster: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Unless there's an injury that keeps one of the top three players out of action for a while, there does not figure to be many chances for a fourth receiver to contribute.
The good thing for Jenkins is that he can learn a lot about the game as a rookie behind the scenes. He said he took advantage of being around those players during the offseason program."I've learned a lot," Jenkins said "I've talked to them over the offseason to see what they do and how they get their bodies ready for camp. I've taken a lot of advice from all of the guys, Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn. I'm like a sponge taking in everything that I'm told."Jenkins never hooked up this offseason with Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who reached out to Jenkins via Twitter.REWIND: Rice challenges Jenkins to run 'The Hill'
There was talk about Jenkins running the famed San Carlos hill that Rice and many 49ers in the 1980s and '90s used for offseason conditioning. Of course, now that training camp has started for Jenkins, his next opportunity to run with Rice will come after the season.While Jenkins might not figure prominently into the team's plans this season, there is a lot of interest in his development because of his first-round status. As the No. 30 overall pick, Jenkins discovered during the offseason that he'll be subject to more scrutiny than he ever experienced during his playing career at Illinois.In short, he had the kind of offseason that one would expect from a rookie receiver. Coach Jim Harbaugh pointed out after the first practice of the rookie minicamp that Jenkins was not in acceptable physical condition. But Jenkins' endurance was never questioned again after the first weekend. And on the final day of the team's mandatory minicamp, Jenkins provided the best catch that was seen during any of the offseason practices that were open to the media.Some outside reports may have been unfairly critical. Jenkins said he did not notice. But, clearly, he did."I don't pay attention to that stuff," Jenkins said. "I don't go on the Internet and I don't 'Google' my name. I don't do any of that stuff. There's no point because it's all about the 49ers."I made long strides, as far as that (conditioning and strength). Obviously, I had some criticism when I first came in from not being in shape, being a bust, all that other stuff. Right now, that's all irrelevant. I'm just trying to just help this team win, whether that's playing special teams or offense or being a real good teammate. Right now, that's my focus."Jenkins, who never returned a punt during his college career, worked in the offseason in that phase of the game. During one open practice, Jenkins and each of the return men struggled catching punts from Andy Lee in a stiff wind. But Jenkins said he is getting more comfortable."It's a lot more comfortable when you have Ted Ginn back there to coach you up and to have one of the best punters ever kicking to you every day," Jenkins said.The 49ers may have only four wide receivers active for regular-season game days with that fourth player -- more than likely, Ginn -- having a primary role as a return specialist.RELATED: Healthy, stronger Ginn reports with 49ers rookies
The 49ers may never have four receivers on the field at the same time because of the receiving prowess of tight end Vernon Davis and such running backs as Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter or LaMichael James being valuable on pass plays.So unless Jenkins can unexpectedly surpass Manningham on the depth chart, he figures to have a quiet rookie season. Kyle Williams likely begins camp ahead of Jenkins, too.
Here is a look at each team's 2011 production from the fourth-leading wide receiver:Arizona: Chansi Stuckey 4 catches, 39 yards, 0 TDs
Atlanta: Eric Weems 11-90-0
Baltimore: LaQuan Williams 4-46-0
Buffalo: Donald Jones 23-231-1
Carolina: Seyi Ajirotutu 1-4-0
Chicago: Devin Hester 26-369-1
Cincinnati: Andrew Hawkins 23-263-0
Cleveland: Carlton Mitchell 3-31-0
Dallas: Kevin Ogletree 15-164-0
Denver: Eddie Royal 19-155-1
Detroit: Rashied Davis 4-63-0
Green Bay: Donald Driver 37-445-6
Houston: Bryant Johnson 6-90-1
Indianapolis: None
Jacksonville: Chastin West 13-163-2
Kansas City: Keary Colbert 9-89-0
Miami: Clyde Gates 2-19-0
Minnesota: Greg Camarillo 9-121-0
New England: Julian Edelman 4-34-0
New Orleans: Devery Henderson 32-503-2
N.Y. Giants: Ramses Barden 9-94-0
N.Y. Jets: Derrick Mason 13-115-0
Oakland: Jacoby Ford 19-279-1
Philadelphia: Riley Cooper 16-315-1
Pittsburgh: Emmanuel Sanders 22-288-2
St. Louis: Austin Pettis 27-256-0
San Diego: Vincent Brown 19-329-2
San Francisco: Josh Morgan 15-220-1
Seattle: Sidney Rice 32-484-2
Tampa Bay: Arrelious Benn 30-441-3
Tennessee: Kenny Britt 17-289-3
Washington: Leonard Hankerson 13-163-0

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