San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh relayed before training camp anecdotal evidence speaking to receiver Anquan Boldin's professionalism. So serious about his job was Boldin, the coach said, that sitting next to the 11th-year veteran in the lunchroom wasn't always the most interactive social experience.
"The guy isn't a small talker," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh noted that Boldin's serious approach to his work was good for the 49ers' younger players. Also good from a 49ers perspective: the manner in which Boldin has gone about helping those younger receivers learn their craft.
In this age of tablets and smartphones, the 32-year-old Boldin uses a dry erase board to quiz young wideouts on their responsibilities. The method was one Boldin adopted when trying to learn all three receiver positions as an Arizona Cardinals rookie in 2001. His girlfriend at the time would call out the plays, and Boldin would try to diagram them on the erase board as quickly as he could.
"A lot of young guys come in and they think too much and it slows them down," Boldin explained after a recent training camp practice. "I think a lot of times people are like, 'Man he was this in college, why is he not?' Mentally, it’s not hitting their brains the way it did in college."
Diagramming plays creates a visual point of reference. Boldin calls it painting a picture. He much prefers that approach to translating verbiage from quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage, when the action is moving too quickly for much conscious thought.
"If you’re thinking about what route you have, you’re not seeing the defense, so you don’t know your adjustments," Boldin said. "And then you’re not going to catch the ball because you’re still thinking about it."
As a rookie, Boldin said he had to learn three times as many plays as most other receivers because the Cardinals wanted him to know the Y, F and Z positions.
"While everybody else is learning 30 plays, I had to learn 90, so I had to talk to myself constantly like, 'OK, I’m 'F' on this play or I’m 'Y' on this play,' " Boldin said. "Any play, I can be in three different positions running three different routes."
We'll want to check back during the season to see whether tutoring sessions have helped younger 49ers receivers such as Quinton Patton and A.J. Jenkins -- players San Francisco might need to contribute quickly in light of injuries at the position.