Memories of 49ers training camps past

Rookie Colin Kaepernick meets the press before his first training camp in 2011.

The 49ers are set to have their veterans report to training camp today. It’s a great time for 49ers fans. But for me when I was on the beat, it was the most fun I’ve had during the season.

I know that covering the games itself was pretty fun but from a personal standpoint, the best writing I’ve done came from training camp. That’s the time where I got a chance to meet over 80 players during a short one-month period.

There were so many storylines that were presented to me at the time. And while I was there at camp, I got a chance to watch the players and see what the story for the day was.

The time I cherished the most actually came with the new faces. As much as it was fun to see the old faces and to talk about prospects of the season, the rookies were my favorite players to talk with.

Rookies are just that: rookies. They’re learning everything for the first time. They’re adapting to so many things going on. For many, this is their first job ever.

There has always been an interest with rookies by fans. They want to know about the new kids on the team, what they can bring and what chances they could be that breakout star.

In my final season covering the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick was that intriguing player. Not only did he play a high-profile position, but he was such an abstract of an athlete. He had so much skill and potential, that it made everyone wonder when he would take over for Alex Smith.

Every opportunity there was to talk with him, I was there. Like a new toy, we couldn’t turn away from it.

Now as I look back at it, that was just a fun time. I am happy to see Kaepernick emerge as the player he has become today. Being there to see the genesis of his career was a thrill. Learning about him as a rookie really gave me a better idea of what to expect when he blew onto the scene last year.

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Another thing that most fans get to see every now and then are the practices. When fans get to watch the practices, they see a multitude of drills and various activities from the players. To them, this is as close as they get to the players. This is a thrill for them.

For me, the thrill is actually taking notes. As a reporter, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Whether it was a big play or an injury, I had to record every single thing that happened.

Especially with position battles, one play could be the difference in the day’s events. Seeing the fluidity of the plays also became a focus of the practice for me. Did they unveil a new formation? Who appears to get the most reps?

As much as I dreaded training camp (which took away my summer vacation time), I ended up falling in love with it all over again every time. Just being there, watching the little things in football come together was special. And when the season came along, I knew exactly what I saw translated into that.

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Not only was training camp fun to watch, but the break in between practices kept me coming back. The 49ers provide some of the best food I’ve ever had.

The reporters get a chance to eat in the safe cafeteria as the players do. Essentially, we get the chance to have the same diet as the players. It was extremely nice to eat healthy (although I couldn’t resist the sugar cookies).

Every now and then I would see the players eating in the cafeteria for a late lunch and just see them interacting with each other. Most times I have to see these players in a football environment. Seeing them doing something outside of football, like eating lunch, was something I appreciated. It was just a different part of football that normally doesn’t get covered.

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August was my favorite time of the year also because it was like my training camp. It prepared me and got me back into shape mentally. I started writing more, covering more practices and the preseason games were like my warmup games to get ready for the regular season.

I was busy all the time during training camp, but I never complained. I was privileged to cover the team and get that kind of access. It was non-stop fun. It was my favorite time of the year.

I still miss it and the times I spent with the other writers on the beat. I’ve moved on to bigger and better things but as I look back, I don’t think I’ve had as much fun on the beat than training camp.

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