SANTA CLARA – The hardest part of a contract dispute for Deebo Samuel came last week when his San Francisco 49ers teammates were practicing and he could only train on the side.
The months-long drama involving a social media scrub, a trade demand and ultimately a contract “hold-in” at the start of the training camp came to an end this week.
“In the end, this is a matter,” said Samuel. “What changed was the communication. The more we communicated, the more we started figuring things out.”
Communications picked up in June when Samuel showed up for the team’s mandatory mini-camp after skipping the voluntary part of the off-season.
Samuel pointed to his close relationship with coach Kyle Shanahan, who helped him through the process while his agent and the front office negotiated final details.
‘You have to have patience. Be patient, communicate,’ said Samuel. “Not everything goes the way you want it to in the beginning. This was probably one of the most stressful weeks I’ve been through in my life.”
Samuel didn’t deny asking for the exchange or say if he regrets it, he just said it was a business and he’s happy to be with San Francisco for the long haul.
But he did deny that the way Shanahan used him as a running back and wide receiver late last season contributed to the request, specifically pointing to a playoff win in Dallas when he demanded a carry and scored on a 26-yard run.
“That’s not true,” said Samuel. “A lot of things came out that I wanted to talk about, but at the end of the day I wasn’t allowed to. You can turn on the tape, go back to the Cowboys game. It kind of shows what kind of player I am… I will do everything in their power to make this team win.”
The contract includes incentive clauses that can earn Samuel up to an additional $650,000 per year based on riveting yards and TDs, according to ESPN.
Samuel emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game last season with the unique ability to thrive as both a running back and receiver in Shanahan’s attack.
Samuel finished the season with 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is the only Niners receiver to ever win more yards from scrimmage in a season than Samuel last year.
That’s why the Niners have never been serious about trading Samuel.
“As I’ve said time and time again, he makes us better,” said general manager John Lynch. “We would stick with our guns and know that he ultimately enjoys being part of this organization.”
Getting Samuel back on the practice field was a priority for the 49ers so he can get started with new starting quarterback Trey Lance. After drafting Lance third overall last year, the Niners will hand the offense over to him in 2022 and want as much time as possible to build rapport between Lance and Samuel.
Samuel said Lance kept in touch with him during the off-season, but acknowledges it will take time to build rapport on the pitch.
“It’s getting better every day,” said Samuel. “I couldn’t spend much time with him the way I wanted to. It’s not hard being there with Trey. He’s willing to learn and I’m willing to learn too. We just come together as one to figure it out .”
Signing Samuel for extra time solved one of San Francisco’s biggest lingering problems, but there is still no solution to the status of former starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners are still hoping to find a trading partner for Garoppolo as they commit to Trey Lance as a starter, but haven’t found a team willing to take Garoppolo’s unguaranteed salary of $24.2 million.
Garoppolo is not practicing with the team despite being acquitted after an off-season shoulder surgery, as both sides have decided it is best to wait for a possible exchange.
“Jimmy is doing a very good job, building his stamina in the throwing program that was prescribed all along and working very strong and aggressively,” Lynch said. “That situation is kind of where we described it before and we will continue to be patient here as well and come to a great conclusion for everyone involved.”