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Deebo Samuel knows how to be credible, accountable

Deebo Samuel previews rookie season with 49ers

Former South Carolina star was drafted in second round of the NFL draft
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Former South Carolina star was drafted in second round of the NFL draft

Deebo Samuel initially felt “unreal” starting for the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s season opener – and his NFL debut.

What followed were some positive plays that reinforced why coach Kyle Shanahan started him and why Samuel was the 36th overall draft pick.

Some negative plays, on the other hand, served as learning lessons and a reminder this was his rookie debut.

Through all that, Samuel earned more credibility with his accountability.

“You can be hard on him. He doesn’t make excuses,” Shanahan said. “He works at it. And he definitely takes accountability and doesn’t mind you calling him out in front of the team.

“It’s important to him and he usually responds when you do it.”

Samuel agreed. After three catches for just 17 yards in a 31-17 rout at Tampa Bay, he figures to play a lot and perhaps start again over Dante Pettis when the 49ers (1-0) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) this Sunday.

“As far as how hard (coaches) get on you, they just want you to become a better player, and I take coaching very well,” Samuel said.

His Game No. 1 highlights: A 14-yard catch on third-and-12 from the 49ers 8-yard line for his first catch, and a two-point conversion reception to cap Sunday’s scoring.

His lowlights: Fumbling at the Bucs’ 25-yard line 10 seconds before halftime to cost the 49ers a shot at points, committing a false-start penalty in the fourth quarter on what Shanahan said was set up as an “explosive” play from the 49ers’ 12-yard line.

“It’s unfortunate, rookie mistakes, and you’ve got to move on from it,” Garoppolo said. “He came back with that two-point conversion. That’s a tough catch. He had a good mindset the whole day. The guy doesn’t sweat, even in Tampa. It’s mind blowing.”

Shanahan said there were other “little plays” outsiders wouldn’t notice, such as blocking assignments.

“In college, you conserve energy a lot for third down, but in the NFL you can’t,” Shanahan said. “That blocking play on first down is just as important as that slant on third down. They have to learn that on their own and see how many plays are pivotal to the final score.”

That said, Shanahan praised Samuel for being “as good as anyone I’ve been around” when it comes to constructive criticism.

As for playing time, Shanahan said Samuel’s 60 snaps were too much, at least compared to Pettis’ two-snap stint. Don’t expect Samuel to campaign to remain the starter, other than through how he plays.

“Being a starter is not one of the main things,” Samuel said. “It’s being able to contribute to the team in any aspect of the game.”

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