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|Jerick McKinnon had a steep learning curve when he arrived in San Francisco as the highly paid featured back for the 49ers. After four seasons as mostly a backup in Minnesota Duke Dawson Jersey , McKinnon was one of San Francisco's big-ticket additions in free agency this offseason and took some time to learn coach Kyle Shanahan's complex new offense.
"When I first got here, I was lost. I was really lost," McKinnon said. "My head was spinning. It's different protections I have to learn, different concepts I have to learn and basically I have to take my whole way of thinking for four years and switch it up to a new one. I guess it's complex when you're new to it, but once you start studying it, you get it. I'm starting to get it."
McKinnon has shown just that early in training camp. He broke a long run around the left side on the team's first 11-on-11 drill of the summer and also has made several catches out of the backfield.
Those skills are why the 49ers gave the career backup a $30 million, four-year contract this offseason. McKinnon will get paid $12 million in 2018. Only Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley have signed contracts that will pay them more this season, according to spotrac.
But McKinnon feels no added pressure because of the high price tag.
"I've had the same mindset I've had since my rookie year, which is coming in and working," he said. "A lot of guys get contracts and some of them get content. For me, it's about staying the same and continuing to work and showing my teammates how I work and what I bring to the table and pushing everybody around me."
McKinnon spent four years in Minnesota after being drafted in the third round in 2014 out of Georgia Southern. He has rushed for 1 Dave Casper Jersey ,918 yards with an average of 4.0 yards per carry, has 142 catches for 984 yards, and has scored 12 touchdowns.
McKinnon had his most productive season last year, when he ran for a career-high 570 yards while setting personal bests with 51 catches for 421 yards.
McKinnon replaces Carlos Hyde, who left as a free agent for Cleveland.
McKinnon has more speed and is a better receiving threat than Hyde and should fit well into Shanahan's offense. But Shanahan said McKinnon's strengths start as a runner.
"You have to be a good running back to truly get the effects of being good in the pass game because if you're only good in the pass game, then they can just treat you as a receiver and it's different," he said. "So, it starts with being a running back and we really like him as a running back. We studied every run he had in Minnesota. I think he fits in the type of runs we do very well. He's got the speed. He's got the cutting ability and he's got the toughness to run through arm tackles. Then the pass game is the huge bonus. He is a matchup issue. He's very good in his routes. ... Just versatility-wise, he's going to help us a lot."
Having a running back who is a threat in the passing game is a crucial part of Shanahan's offense. The Niners ranked third in the NFL last year with 113 receptions out of the backfield, up from just 67 the previous year under Chip Kelly.
While Hyde had a team-high 59 catches last season, he wasn't particularly productive. He averaged just 5.9 yards on those catches and turned only 28.8 percent of them into first downs.
Those numbers are significantly below McKinnon's 8.3 yards per catch and 39.2 percent first downs as his skills make him a better option in the passing game.
"Jerick is a unique talent Shilique Calhoun Jersey ," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "He can do things out of the backfield. You can line him up in the slot. ... He can do so many different things that it's hard for a defense. What do you put on him? A linebacker, a safety, a corner? It's a pick your poison type of thing so it makes my job a whole lot easier."
Josh Norman thought football was difficult. Then he appeared on ”Dancing With the Stars.”
The Washington Redskins cornerback had some impressive performances with dance partner Sharna Burgess on the show in Los Angeles and each week took a red-eye back to the East Coast for the team’s offseason program. Norman and Burgess finished second to skater Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson.
Norman was back on the field this week with a new appreciation for dancing and a fresh approach to his day job.
”My mindset is a bit different,” Norman said Wednesday. ”I can go further now than I thought I could and push myself to pretty much a new level, I feel, a new height. So now I look at things and I (used to) be like, `That’s hard.’ Nah, I don’t think so.”
Norman didn’t quite know what to expect out of ”Dancing With the Stars,” which included 12-hour days of learning, practicing, rehearsing and performing . Add in the cross-country flights and Norman was more fatigued than after a one-on-one showdown with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
He approached the performances like NFL games Marcus Gilchrist Jersey , though, and was glad he took on the adventure that reminded him of theater class in college.
”You could be someone else,” Norman said. ”You could be different. Everybody is different in their own right, and everybody work to a common goal. Part of it is just going out there amongst athletes and trying to best them all.”
Norman got a good laugh about going shirtless for dance routines because ”there’s a lot of cougars that like the shirt off” and knew voting was involved. Taking a temporary break from his pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy, Norman came away crushed that he didn’t help Burgess win the Mirrorball Trophy she has been trying for the past seven years.
”This was the year to break that curse and I wasn’t the one to do it and it’s just like, `Dang,”’ Norman said. ”It’s like a heart-throbbing gut-puncher that I couldn’t be the one for her to get over the hump.”
Norman was a winner to his teammates, a handful of whom traveled to L.A. to watch the finale Monday. Running back Chris Thompson was impressed by the dance moves and felt his teammate ”got cheated.”
”I never saw Josh as being a dancer, for one,” Thompson said. ”It was great. It was just cool just to see somebody doing something different.”
Coach Jay Gruden said he watched every episode and came away impressed with Norman’s rhythm, execution and willingness to balance dancing and football.
”The work that he put in to get ready for that show and also fly back out on red eyes and get here for practice or OTAs Justin Tucker Jersey , I just really had a lot of admiration for what he did and what he accomplished because that’s not easy,” Gruden said. ”I thought he should’ve won the dang thing. I think he got ripped off, to be honest with you.”
Even in a losing effort, Norman figures ”Dancing With the Stars” helped his physical and mental preparation, his footwork, posture and focus. Call it a journey of self-discovery.
”It taught me a lot about myself,” Norman said. ”I grew tremendously. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else from it than that.”
With the Redskins in the middle of organized team activities, Norman was hardly breaking a sweat Wednesday after what he had been through under the lights each week dancing.
”This is a cakewalk,” he said. ”This is like picking daisies.”
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