Patton on Crabtree: 'I look to him as a big brother'
SANTA CLARA -- Wide receiver Quinton Patton is not fond of the description given to first-year players, such as himself.
After all, the fourth-round draft pick is on equal footing with his peers, regardless of his level of NFL experience. With the 49ers' rookie program wrapping up its seventh and final week, Patton has put himself in position to compete for playing time like everyone else when he reports to 49ers training camp in late-July.
"I don't like the word 'rookie,' " Patton said. "I'm a ballplayer. I'm trying to be the best, and everything else is for the coaches to decide."
All Patton has to do is call around to his former Louisiana Tech teammates to get a full understanding of how good he's had it during his first offseason with the 49ers.
"It's a great opportunity I have because I talked to teammates from Louisiana Tech -- they're with the Panthers (quarterback Colby Cameron), Packers (receiver Myles White) and Chicago (tackle Jordan Mills) -- and they probably get three or four reps a day.
"Me, I'm getting close to 50 reps a day. So it's working out real good."
After Michael Crabtree sustained a torn Achilles tendon on May 21, it opened the door for Patton and the other young receivers to earn significant roles in the 49ers' offense this season. But Patton said his mindset never changed after Crabtree experienced his misfortune.
"I just wanted to come in and make an impact on the team," Patton said. "Whether he was here or not, I was going to try to get on the field the best way I could. But you can't replace a Crabtree. You just got to step up.
"All of us are working hard, and that's for the coaches to decide who gets to play. Me, Ricardo Lockette, A.J. Jenkins and everybody else out there, everybody is fighting for one position. It's a good fight going on."
Jenkins heads into training camp with what appears to be a slight lead over Patton and Lockette at the X position (split end) in the 49ers' offense. Anquan Boldin is secure at the Z spot (flanker).
Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham did not take part in the offseason program due to knee injuries, but they figure to be factors in the competition, too. Williams is expected to be cleared for the opening of training camp, while Manningham is more than a month behind Williams' rehab schedule.
Patton said it's not enough for the receivers to learn just one position. They all must be ready to play three positions.
"In our offense, you have to learn the concepts and not just the plays," Patton said. "You might be an X, but they could throw you in at F or Z, so you got to know those positions, too."
While Patton might object to being called a rookie, he has no problem looking up to his elders on the football field. While catching 104 passes for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final college season, Patton did not let his play do all of his talking. He had plenty to say to the opposition along the way. That part of his game has changed since coming to the 49ers, he said.
"In college I used to talk a lot," he said. "Coming out here with the veterans, I've learned to shut up and get it done. I don't really say too much on the field."
Now, he's doing a lot more listening around such respected veterans as Boldin, safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Patton said he has already shown improvement based on advice he received from Boldin, a 10-year pro who led the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens in receptions and receiving yards last season.
"He taught me some release techniques and everything because before he used to tell me that I pop straight up instead of staying level," Patton said. "I've been seeing results from that. When he's running his routes and I'm not running my routes, I tune in just to see how he does his routes because he's a successful receiver."
And Patton also is not shy about seeking input from the veterans in the 49ers' defensive backfield.
"I'll talk to Donte Whitner sometimes," Patton said. "I'll ask, 'What was that coverage you were in?' He'll tell me the coverage and how they were playing me and everything. And after practice every day I take four releases with Nnamdi Asomugha because he's a bigger corner and I know in this division there are a lot of bigger corners. I want to get used to it. And I help him out with (my) quickness and different techniques.
"I've seen major strides since the first time I got here."