No, that wasn't a new, 6-4 tight end/H-back catching a swing pass along the sideline and then motoring down field earlier this week. It was a new, more svelte, more nimble Brandon Jacobs, who says he feels faster and stronger than he's been in recent years.
When Jacobs showed up for the start of spring drills, he weighed 275 pounds. Today he's down to 260 pounds, and he said he's adding muscle in his thighs and gaining some of the burst that critics say went missing from his game in recent years in New York.
"I feel faster, I feel stronger, I feel like I'm playing with better leverage," Jacobs said today. "My pads are down lower. Balance is better. I'm really looking forward to these preseason games we've got coming up here."
Jacobs said he's more than willing to catch passes for the 49ers, something he didn't do very often recently in New York. But he knows his challenge this year is to turn back the clock and regain his reputation as a menacing power runner who can gain touchdowns and first downs when everyone in the stadium knows he's coming.
Said offensive coordinator Greg Roman: "Brandon is a guy - if you think back on his career - if he gets his shoulders squared to the line of scrimmage, he is something. He's a unique running back. And we've seen a good amount of that."
"My role can change according to the game plan," Jacobs said. "I do know one part of my role will be down-hill, in-between-the-tackles, may-the-man-who-wants-it-more-win. That's pretty much going to be my role, actually, no matter what the game plan is."
Jacobs said the type of runs he's doing with the 49ers are no different than what he did in New York. But the formations are more varied and there are so many moving parts to any particular play. "It was definitely challenging - it's still challenging for me to pick up," he said of the playbook. "But I'm doing pretty good. I only have to ask two questions a day vs. 10. So I'm getting better."
One topic both he and former Giants teammate Mario Manningham try to avoid is the NFC Championship game, a contest that still burns in the pits of their new teammates. In fact, Jacobs said that Frank Gore spoke about the loss this morning and that the pain in Gore's voice was apparent.
"We try not to talk about it so much," Jacobs said. "Because I know that's a dagger for some guys. ... So I try not to ever bring it up, you know? The only time we talk about is if somebody brings up something about that game. There's really no need to talk about it because it's gone now."
-- Matt Barrows