“It was awful,” he said Tuesday.
Samuel said he came into training camp out of shape last year following an offseason of distractions because of a contract dispute and trade demand. He never came close to producing at the level that made him one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players in an All-Pro season in 2021.
Samuel and coach Kyle Shanahan hashed it out this offseason and Samuel assured that won’t happen again.
“Me and Kyle had a long meeting the other day. We watched tape, we talked about it, we put it behind us,” Samuel said. “Just going through the tape and just looking how sluggish and how bad it looked on tape. Just reflecting on the last offseason, it kind of played a big role in that. I will never put anything like that on tape again.”
Samuel said his focus this offseason was getting back to his approach leading up to the breakthrough 2021 campaign that eventually earned him the big payday in San Francisco.
He had 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns and led the NFL with 18.2 yards per reception that season. He added 59 carries for 365 yards and eight TDs as he was used out of the backfield frequently in the second half of the season. His 1,770 yards from scrimmage that season have only been topped by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in Niners history.
Samuel then made a public trade demand, scrubbed his social media of 49ers references and skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason as he tried to get a contract extension.
He didn’t practice the first few days of training camp as part of a “hold in” before finally signing a three-year, $71.55 million contract extension.
But the offseason took a toll on Samuel that he never overcame.
“I was kind of behind the eight ball a little bit as far as being in my routine I’d normally be in for the offseason and getting ready to play,” he said. “A lot of distractions were going on. I kind of felt it, but I was just trying to will my way to help the team in every way possible.”
He never got back to his level from 2021, when he was perhaps the most dangerous offensive player in the game. He had career lows in yards receiving per game and per catch last season and ended up with less than half as many yards from scrimmage as he had the previous year.
Samuel caught 56 passes for 632 yards and two TDs, while adding 232 yards and three TDs rushing.
He still showed flashes of his old form with three TDs in the regular season and playoffs of at least 39 yards but the Niners are excited to see what more he can do this season.
“I know when Deebo is very motivated, he’s a fantastic football player,” tight end George Kittle said. “I’m not saying he wasn’t motivated last year, but I definitely think he has a little bit more of a fire under him this year. If he said (he was awful), then I know that he’s going to go out there and try to have a better year this year, which I appreciate. Because if Deebo is trying to do better, that’s only going to be good for the Niners.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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