The A.J. Jenkins that roamed around the practice fields on Sunday wasn’t the same A.J. Jenkins that the 49ers drafted in late April. He’s only a few months older, but the rookie wideout said he feels a whole lot wiser.
Rubbing elbows with talented group of veteran receivers that features Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams has only benefitted the first-round selection.
“That’s a great opportunity for me,” Jenkins said. “Coming in to this situation where you have players that have won Super Bowls, a future Hall of Famer – I don’t see the downfall in that. Obviously, if I have to wait a year, I’m going to gain so much insight from these types of players and I’m going to keep working hard.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Sunday and voiced his support for the former Illinois standout, saying, “A.J.’s going to be an outstanding football player. So far in camp, what he’s done in the offseason has led us to believe nothing but that he will be an outstanding football player in the National Football League.”
Though he appreciated his coach’s vote of confidence, Jenkins isn’t going let it change his work ethic. He said he’s matured since joining the NFL and that he will have to keep grinding and be patient in order to make an impact on the team.
“With proven vets like that, what do you expect?” Jenkins said. “You’re going to have to wait your turn. It’s all good.”
Despite some early criticism in his NFL career, Jenkins said his expectations are still “sky-high.” Following a senior season when he racked up 90 catches for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns, Jenkins is confident in his ability to translate that success to the NFL.
On Sunday, Jenkins got his first taste of a real NFL practice as the 49ers donned pads for the first time. He spent part of the practice session going against Perrish Cox and found out what press coverage is all about at the NFL level.
Being a first-round pick has made Jenkins something of a target for criticism, but it’s a challenge he welcomes.
“I love criticism; that’s what drives me,” Jenkins said. “There’s no hard feelings; people are going have what they got to say. People are going to love you regardless and people are going to hate you regardless, so it doesn’t really matter about the outside world and what they see and think about me. If I thought about their comments so heavily, I wouldn’t be where I am now, so I’m going to keep on going.”
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