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Elvis Dumervil out to prove he still has plenty left with 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil will have to wait until training camp before he practices with his new team.

After waiting a few months to sign somewhere after the Baltimore Ravens released him in March, what's another six weeks or so?

"I just want Elvis to come in here, learn the schemes, and really get a chance to meet everyone," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I talked to Elvis about this week before we signed and him not being in the camp, him not going through OTAs and stuff, I did want to get him signed fast to get him in here, but we didn't think getting him involved in the work and everything was important, at least for now.

"I think he's in very good shape, but until you train and go through that process, we're just a little bit more worried about the football shape. I think it'd be better for him to not have him out there until training camp."

So after the Niners signed Dumervil to a two-year deal last week, he arrived in the Bay Area this week for the team's full-squad minicamp. After dealing with an Achilles injury that limited him last season, Dumervil figured to get his first on-field work of the offseason.

Though Dumervil has missed organized team activities and other training opportunities, Shanahan didn't want to rush him back and risk an injury. Dumervil would have preferred to participate, however.

"I'm kind of itching," Dumervil said. "You're trying to digest the new playbook and there's a lot to learn, new positions and stuff like that, so I'll take the time to take mental reps so at training camp I'll be ready to roll."

Dumervil spent Tuesday's practice in a jersey and shorts but no helmet. He spent the first few minutes chatting with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, then observed his fellow defensive ends going through drills. He occasionally asked a question and also offered some tips to some of his younger teammates, a role that will likely become the norm for him as one of the Niners' most experienced and accomplished players.

When Dumervil does get back on the field, it's safe to expect him to be a man on a mission. At 33, he's the second-oldest player on the roster. And the injuries that limited him to eight games and three sacks a year ago have left some wondering if he can still offer much help in bringing down opposing quarterbacks.

"Last year was tough," Dumervil said. "You try to play the game which you are so familiar with and you compete and guys block you from my position and you know they shouldn't block you. It's tough to deal with but you fight through it, nobody feels sorry for you. So now I'm happy to be in a position where my body is really good."

When one reporter brought up Dumervil's age, Dumervil pushed back a bit, saying he didn't know 33 was considered old for an NFL player.

"Everybody has an opinion and you have to respect that," Dumervil said. "The beautiful thing about life is you wake up every day and you can prove otherwise. In my career, I've always had those types of challenges and obstacles. That's the beauty about the NFL, there's an opportunity day in and day out, week in and week out to come out and prove yourself. It's a young man's game and I'm excited to play a young man's game."

The 49ers certainly hope that Dumervil will play like the younger version of himself. San Francisco hasn't had a player with more than 6.5 sacks in either of the past two seasons and they finished 28th in 2016 in pressure rate, which is a percentage of how often the opposing quarterback is sacked, hit or under duress.

Dumervil, meanwhile, is seventh among active players with 99 career sacks.

"Just playing against Elvis over the years, he's very hard to block," Shanahan said. "He knows how to get to the quarterback. He's got extremely long arms. He doesn't have the height, which people could say is a disadvantage, but when you have those arms, I think it's an advantage because he's always under people.

"He's got power to him that way with his lower center of gravity, but he's got the length in his arms to still keep those tackles away from him. I think that's why Elvis has had such a good career. I think that's why he's had the numbers with the sacks and I'm hoping he can bring that here."

Dumervil is attempting to play catch up, both in getting back into football shape but also in learning a new scheme and new defense. He's spent most of his career as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, which isn't too terribly different from his new 'Leo' defensive end spot in Saleh’s 4-3 scheme. Still, there are some nuances that Dumervil must learn.

When Dumervil does get caught up, his role will likely center on chasing quarterbacks on passing downs. Arik Armstead has worked with the starters at the 'Leo' during the offseason and seems more suited to help against the run on early downs.

Assuming Dumervil can show some of the old magic that made him one of the league's most feared pass-rushers as recently as 2014, he should find a way to earn his share of snaps.

For now, Dumervil is taking nothing for granted.

"It's an opportunity for me to come in and prove myself year in and year out," Dumervil said. "[In] the NFL, you have to prove yourself. Nobody cares about what you've done in the past and what you bring to the table is about what you can do now, so I'm excited for the opportunity."