49ers' rookie DBs bond during eye-opening start to career


SANTA CLARA -- Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir are thankful to have each other. 

The transition of going from college to the NFL is an undertaking and the two 49ers rookie defensive backs have leaned on each other since the beginning of OTAs. Having known each other from competing in high school -- the Opening and the Army Bowl -- seeing a familiar face was a comfort. 

“Actually OTAs, it was crazy,” Lenoir said. “It was a culture shock. I didn’t even know where to go. Me and Ambry were just following each other, not knowing where to go. 

“I remember coach [Richard] Hightower screaming at Jimmie [Ward], ’Jimmie, take them under your wing!’ And then we just followed Jimmie everywhere.” 

Both young cornerbacks have described the veterans in their position room as supportive big brothers. Still, when it comes to swimming in an abundance of new knowledge, no one understands better than someone in the same position. 

“Through rookie OTAs we sat up in the hotel room watching film and just breaking it down together,” Thomas said. “It’s been a blessing, honestly, to just have somebody in the cornerback room with me that’s a rookie just like me, just to know I’m not the only one out there, just lost. You feel me?”

Passing game/secondary coach Cory Undlin knew there would be a learning curve. Both Thomas and Lenoir needed to learn to do more than just cover their man. They needed to learn to read the bigger picture and to expect more than the game simply being faster. 

While both rookies have improved through OTAs and training camp, the true test will be in Saturday’s preseason opener when they will need to tackle for the first time. 

For Thomas, knocking the rust off after opting out of the 2020 season could be a challenge. For Lenoir, finding out how important the small details are has been an eye-opener. 

“It’s very different because every little detail is very important,” Lenoir said. “It could be a split second and if you’re off by a yard, that’s a catch or even a touchdown. It was very surprising. I actually thought it was going to be the same as college but just a little bit faster. But it is actually more detailed than anything.”  

Both cornerbacks have most of their training camp reps with the second team but with Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Jimmie Ward taking occasional days off, both Lenoir and Thomas have had their turns defending Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. 

Every day has provided learning opportunities for the rookies and they are attempting to soak in as much information as they possibly can. 

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“When an opportunity presents itself, I think we will be ready,” Lenoir said. “We are just taking it one day at a time and just learning as much knowledge as we can, so when our number is called, we can go and make plays.”

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