HENDERSON, Nev. — Many NFL players have turning points during their careers, and 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir is no exception.
The third-year pro vividly remembers the specific moment following his rookie season with coach Kyle Shanahan and shared the details of that interaction with NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday.
“It was when coach Shanahan called me out in a team meeting,” Lenoir said. “It wasn’t even about a physical play. It was ‘You’ve got that dog mentality in you, when are you going to start showing it?’ ”
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The moment took place during the 49ers' 2022 training camp with the entire 90-man roster present. The play on the screen showed Lenoir lacking effort in his pursuit to the ball during practice. He was in complete disbelief his head coach was actually talking to him.
“I was not even able to talk,” Lenoir said. “I was surprised. I ain’t never been called out in a team meeting before, ever. Not at Oregon, not even in high school. I was thinking in my head he said ‘Deebo.’ Deebo [Samuel] was sitting in front of me and turned around and said, ‘Say something.’
“I was at a loss for words.”
San Francisco 49ers
Lenoir, a 2021 fifth-round draft pick, started the first two games of his NFL career in 2021, but then was a healthy scratch for three straight weeks. As a rookie, the Los Angeles native only was on the field or 237 defensive snaps, registering 17 total tackles — 12 solo -- and two pass break ups.
“In my rookie year I was in the dog house, you know, the Shanahan dog house,” Lenoir said with a slight smile. “I just did some rethinking after that season, it didn’t go as planned, as in my expectations. I didn’t meet my requirements. Came out that next year with a chip on my shoulder and now I’m here.”
After Shanahan aired out Lenoir in front of the team, the Oregon product became more focused, more driven and it showed up on the field. By Week 6 of his second NFL season, he had solidly resumed his starting role and never looked back.
Lenoir always will be thankful for Shanahan’s honesty, even if the moment was a little shocking and embarrassing.
“Coming from the head coach, just being singled out, it just didn’t feel right. I was sick,” Lenoir said. “You can be in denial sometimes of what a coach tells you, but I really sat back and watched that year versus this year and how I was doing, how I was moving. It was like night and day different.”
Now, as one of the most respected players on the defense, Lenoir has played well enough to earn more responsibilities as the nickelback. This requires him to cover receivers as well as being aware of the gap scheme of the opposing team, and a pivotal element of the 49ers' defense in trying to limit Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes when the two teams meet in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.