No need to label 49ers WR Jenkins at this point

July 30, 2012, 4:36 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- Jim Harbaugh had something he wanted to say.On a day the 49ers coach was not scheduled to speak to the media, Harbaugh took the podium Sunday to deliver an impassioned defense of A.J. Jenkins and show his support for the rookie wide receiver.Harbaugh did not say what he might have read or what he might have heard to prompt his words. He specified "scribes, pundits, so-called experts" as the target of his rant.I'm not sure, exactly, who has written or said the kinds of comments to which Harbaugh alluded. But I do know there is a general perception that Jenkins has been lackluster since arriving in Santa Clara to begin working with his teammates. It seems every question I get from fans about Jenkins mentions his perceived struggles.The media did not see every practice during the offseason program. During organized team activities, we were allowed to watch one practice a week. The mandatory minicamp was open for three days. But we saw just one practice during the first rookie minicamp, and we saw no practices during the final rookie minicamp. Clearly, it was difficult to draw any conclusion from such a small sample size.What did I see from Jenkins?I saw a guy who was clearly winded during his first practice after the 49ers selected him with the No. 30 overall pick. I saw him drop a few passes that day. After that first practice, I never saw that his conditioning or strength was an issue.On the final day of the mandatory minicamp, I saw Jenkins make the best catch I saw from any receiver during the offseason program. In between his first practice and his last, I saw a receiver who did not stand out -- one way or the other.And that's basically what I've seen through three training camp practices, too. He had an active day on Saturday. On Sunday, in a one-on-one drill, he made an outstanding grab of a back-shoulder throw against tight coverage from Perrish Cox, as he showed the strength and concentration to come up with the ball with Cox all over him. A short time later, he dropped a pass.I've seen every receiver -- with the possible exception of Michael Crabtree -- drop multiple passes during the course of the offseason program and first three days of minicamp. So Jenkins' showing has not been unique.I don't know if Harbaugh will be proven correctly, that Jenkins is "going to be an outstanding football player." I believe that we won't know for at least two seasons.Jenkins' attitude -- and what I've seen from his work ethic -- leads me to believe that he has a chance to be a good NFL player. But I'd be very surprised if he makes any impact as a rookie.I can't see that Jenkins is going to be one the three best receivers on the team this season as long as Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham are around. The fourth receiver is not going to get much action. And unless there is an injury or two, I do not expect Jenkins to be one of the 46 active players on regular-season game days.Does that mean I think Jenkins is going to be a bust? Of course not.Jenkins said he is patient. He'll need to demonstrate that virtue because his opportunity to get onto the field and make a contribution might not come until next season or beyond.That will not dissuade people from jumping to conclusions. Some might predict Jenkins is going to be a disappointment. Some might predict he is going to be outstanding. Let's realize, he has gone through one practice in pads.Heck, his first exhibition game is Aug. 10, for crying out loud.
If Jenkins is going to be patient, so should everybody else. And that includes Harbaugh.

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