General manager Trent Baalke spoke with the media at the combine on Thursday and said the 49ers are optimistic for the future in A.J. Jenkins. He said Jenkins is motivated and should be ready for next season.
"We're very confident in his ability as we were when we drafted him," said Baalke. "And now it's time for him to go back to work, and this offseason's going to be a big offseason. The biggest growth is between Year 1 and Year 2. So we're expected that to happen this year, and certainly in A.J.'s case."
Jenkins was drafted in the first round with the 30th overall pick during the 2012 NFL Draft. The 49ers addressed the wide receiver position with the free agent signings of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to bolster the depth. When Manningham and Kyle Williams went down with injury. Jenkins still saw little playing time behind Moss and Michael Crabtree. He failed to record a reception for the 2012 season and had one opportunity in Week 17 which he dropped it.
When Jenkins was drafted, Baalke said he needed to bulk up and hit the weight room. By the time the season rolled around, he said Jenkins needed to understand the offensive system of the 49ers.
"He's a young guy that came out of a college system that's taken a while to grasp to the pro system," said Baalke. "It's not a work ethic issue, it's not a skill set issue. It's learning the craft at the pro level. That's a position historically that some have adapted to more quickly than others."
After his first year in the NFL, Jenkins said a couple days after the Super Bowl that he learned more about the game and understanding it. He will be hungry to contribute for 2013.
"I am stronger and bigger than I was a year ago," said Jenkins. "It humbled me in my first year of not playing. I was seeing the game from a different lense. I learned so much from the veteran players like [Moss and Crabtree]."
Baalke said he is looking for self-motivated players and hopes for him to improve from last year. Jenkins is expected to arrive in Atlanta to work with Colin Kaepernick. He expects the strong work ethic to carry Jenkins moving forward.
"We're looking for guys that really take their professions seriously and really want to hone their craft and do the extras," said Baalke. "We're looking for do-extra guys, and we're fortunate to have a lot of them."