49ers WR Brandon Ayuk learns lessons from first 2 seasons

Santa Clara, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Ayuk thinks he’s in a good place after his first two seasons of ups and downs in the NFL.

Ayuk followed up a promising rookie season in 2020 with a stint at coach Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse early last season. Ayuk recovered in the second half to make a big impact on San Francisco’s offense and is building on that for 2022.

“Everyone knows how the situation was last year and how things went,” Ayuk said. “I think I’m happy with the way things have changed and the way everyone grows and moves on and on from certain situations in the past.”

Shanahan said that the rollercoaster start to Ayuk’s career can be partly attributed to the strange circumstances he faced as a rookie.

San Francisco traded six places to move up to 25th overall in 2020, but it had little time to adjust to the NFL due to layoffs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ayuk handled that well, catching 60 passes for 748 yards and five TDs as a rookie. But he didn’t know how much work he had to do the next season and quickly fell behind in training camp.

This frustrated Shanahan and was of little use at the start of last season as he fell behind Trent Sherfield at one point. Ayuk took only nine catches for 96 yards in the first six games before hitting a stride in the second half.

Ayuk took 47 catches for 730 yards in the final 11 games, leading to a walk-off touchdown in overtime and defeating Cincinnati in Week 14.

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“Instead of blaming others and making excuses, he worked, didn’t say much, just kept going to work,” Shanahan said. “He’s a smart dude and he’s perceptive and he learned, ‘Wow, that’s right. This is totally different. Man, I’m going to be ready for third year, because second year was really my early year.’ So he’s still a long way ahead.”

Ayuk said the experience last season when he was shown commitment in the off-season and training camp was valuable and that is why he is in a much better place at the start of 2022.

“You have to go through things to learn,” he said. “I feel like I’ve gone through a lot in my first two years. But I’m grateful for every lesson I learn every day. I think that’s the best way to learn from things.”

Ayuk has been close to new starting quarterback Trey Lance all offseason, working together in Southern California before and after the formal off-season schedule and developing into their most trusted receiver, while Deebo Samuel is a new player. Looking for a contract is out of practice.

Lance said the two have become very close this off-season after Ayuk barely spoke to her in the early days of their relationship.

“The first two times we worked together, he didn’t talk to me at all,” Lance said. “Right after I was drafted, he said what’s up to me and we went to work. But I learned really early on how he pushes himself. He’s all about his work. When he’s on the field If it happens then it is about business. We are very close to this off season and I am very excited for that this year.”

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Comments: DL Eric Armstead sprained his right knee on Wednesday and will miss a couple of weeks of practice but Shanahan does not believe it will be a long-term issue. … LT Trent Williams returned to practice after missing the previous two days for the birth of a baby boy. … San Francisco signed DL Tomasi Lolille, who played in the USFL earlier this year. … T Mike McGlinchy (quadriceps) and DT Jevon Kinlaw (knee) are expected to take part in team practice starting Saturday as they come back from injuries.

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