Jerick McKinnon signed a four-year, $30 million contract in San Francisco two years ago. He has yet to play a snap of football for the 49ers due to knee issues. The running back's comeback starts now with the Niners hitting the practice fields for training camp.
"I work like I'm broke," McKinnon said, via the Bay Area News Group. "It's hard to stop working."
The 49ers signed McKinnon in 2018 as a perfect piece in Kyle Shanahan's backfield, a dual-threat player who can hit a gap in the zone-running scheme. An ACL injury wiped away his first season, and a setback a year ago negated all of 2019.
Earning $15.5 million in two years without playing, McKinnon restructured his contract this season to $910,000 of base salary to stay in San Francisco and give himself a shot at proving he can be the player the Niners envisioned.
"Before I signed, there was something special about this organization and the momentum they had coming off that last season (in 2017)," McKinnon said. "That's why I came. Younger guys, hungry guys who play hard The reasons I came here, it wasn't really about the money.
"When it came up to reconstruction of contract, it wasn't a big deal to me. It was about proving why I came here, getting back on the field and showcasing my talents."
With Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman atop the depth chart, McKinnon is setting his sights on carving out a role in Shanahan's running back-friendly offense that often sticks with the hot hand.
"I do think I can open up a different element and my toolset that I bring," McKinnon said. "Kyle is a matchup guru at playing guys up to their strength."
Shanahan's biggest concern is McKinnon working too hard in his comeback, fearing the stress of re-injury.
"My only worry about Jet is sometimes he might overdo it because that's how hard he works," Shanahan said over the weekend. "But you can tell that it healed right and you can tell Jet's put that work in and you feel all this that he's gone through in the last two years.
"I feel he's finally in a position where he has a chance to have this comeback now and everyone's pulling for him. He's as good of a guy there is on our team and he had a real good first day of practice."