SANTA CLARA — The toughest part of a contract dispute for Deebo Samuel came in the final week when his San Francisco 49ers teammates were practicing and he could only work out on the side.
The months-long drama that featured a social media scrub, a trade demand and finally a contract "hold-in" at the start of training camp came to an end this week.
"At the end of the day, this is a business," Samuel said. "What changed was the communication. The more we communicated, the more we started to figure things out."
The communication picked up in June when Samuel showed up for the team's mandatory minicamp after skipping the voluntary portion of the offseason.
Samuel pointed to his close relationship with coach Kyle Shanahan with helping him get through the process while his agent and the front office negotiated the final details.
"You've got to be patient. Be patient, communicate," Samuel said. "Not everything is going to happen as you want it to at first. This was probably one of the most stressful weeks I've been a part of in my life."
Samuel didn't deny requesting the trade or say whether he regretted it, saying only it was a business and he's happy to be with San Francisco for the long term.
But he did deny that the way Shanahan used him late last season as a running back as well as a wide receiver contributed to the request, pointing specifically to a playoff win in Dallas when he demanded a carry and scored on a 26-yard run.
"That's false," Samuel said. "There's a lot of things that came out that I wanted to speak on, but at the end of the day, I wasn't allowed to. You can turn on the tape, go back to the Cowboys game. It kind of shows what kind of player I am. ... I'll do whatever it takes for this team to win."
The contract includes incentive clauses that can earn Samuel up to an additional $650,000 a year based on rushing yards and TDs, according to ESPN.
Samuel emerged last season as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game with the unique ability to thrive as both a running back and a receiver in Shanahan's offense.
Samuel finished the season with 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is the only Niners receiver ever to gain more yards from scrimmage in a season than Samuel did last year.
That's why the Niners never seriously entertained trading Samuel.
"As I articulated over and over, he makes us better," general manager John Lynch said. "We were going to stick to our guns and knowing that in the end, he loves being a part of this organization."
Getting Samuel back on the practice field was a priority for the 49ers so he can get to work with new starting quarterback Trey Lance. After drafting Lance third overall last year, the Niners are turning the offense over to him in 2022 and want as much time as possible to build a rapport between Lance and Samuel.
Samuel said Lance kept in touch with him during the offseason but acknowledges it will take some time to build up the on-field rapport.
"It's getting better by day," Samuel said. "I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with him as I wanted to. It's not hard to be out there with Trey. He's willing to learn and I'm willing to learn as well. We'll just come together as one to figure it out."
Signing Samuel to the extension resolved one of the major lingering issues for San Francisco but there is still no resolution on the status of former starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners are still hoping to find a trade partner for Garoppolo now that they are committed to Trey Lance as the starter but haven't found a team willing to take on Garoppolo's non-guaranteed $24.2 million salary.
Garoppolo is not practicing with the team despite being cleared following offseason shoulder surgery as both sides have determined it's best to wait for a possible trade.
"Jimmy is doing a really good job, building his stamina in the throwing program that was prescribed all along and working out really strongly and aggressively," Lynch said. "That situation is kind of where we've described it before and we'll stay patient through this one as well and come to a great conclusion for everybody involved."
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