Nate Byham couldn’t help but marvel over the weekly production from the San Francisco 49ers tight ends, H-backs and fullbacks in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s offense last year.
It just stung that Byham couldn’t be a part of the 98 catches hauled in last season by the three previously mentioned positions.
Byham, a sixth-round draft pick in 2010, missed all of his sophomore campaign with a torn ACL on his left knee. The 23-year-old tight end suffered the injury two days into his first training camp working with Roman and the offensive coaching staff.
Nonetheless, Byham’s looking to impress the offensive coaches throughout his work in the team’s offseason program.
“It’s definitely exciting watching the tight end, H-back and fullback positions grow here,” Byham said after a recent workout. “You sort of need to be a jack-of-all-trades. If you’re going to be a fullback or a tight end here, you have to do everything in this offense.”
And that’s why Byham believes he’s best suited for what the 49ers do offensively with multiple tight end formations and extra blockers in heavy formations. Byham was successful in that regard during his first season with the 49ers by opening running lanes for Frank Gore and catching five passes for 27 yards in 14 appearances.
“I really feel like that plays in my favor, that’s what I like to do,” Byham explained. “I like to get in the backfield and play some fullback. I like to get on the line and do all that stuff.”
But as much as Byham enjoys going through the motions of the game, it means more to him to do it amongst a group of teammates wearing red and white 49ers practice jerseys.
“It’s good to be back playing again with my teammates, really,” said Byham, who spent most of his time on the practice fields rehabbing his injury under the guidance of the team’s strength and medical staffs.
Despite being relegated to having crutches guiding his 6-foot-4, 260-pound body for the early parts of the 2011 regular season, Byham remained a constant around team headquarters.
“When you’re on IR you’re on your own little land over here and everyone else is over there doing football stuff,” Byham said. “This is more about getting to be a part of the team again, getting to practice with everyone and be a part of everything and not be secluded.”
Byham’s knee through three-plus weeks of the nine-week offseason program, as he puts it, “feels fine.”
“It’s not even an issue anymore,” he added. “It feels great.”
Though covered in a supportive black knee brace, Byham’s felt no lingering effects from last year’s setback. If all goes well, the former University of Pittsburgh product will be able abandon the brace in time for next season.
“I’m working my way out of it,” Byham said. “It’s there for support right now, but I feel like I don’t even need it.”
The powerful tight end was so dedicated to re-joining his teammates for this year’s offseason program, Byham began sprinting as early as midseason. Towards the latter stages of the 2011 season, Byham also started traveling with the team on road trips.
Still, nothing can replace the feeling of being on the field on Sundays. And that’s where Byham truly looks to be spending time with his teammates.
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