Streets shines, leaves speculation behind

Rumors, speculation and football innuendo swirled around Tai Streets throughout the offseason. But the fifth-year WR appeared at 49ers minicamp this week wondering what all the fuss is about, and proclaiming that reports he wants out of San Francisco are greatly exaggerated. "I'm happy to be here and happy to be a Niner," Streets said Saturday. "I'm excited about the upcoming season. It all turned out well. I wanted to be here, and now I'm here." Here, and quickly becoming a star of minicamp.

With All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens nursing a groin injury, Streets has had an opportunity to shine as the best receiver on the field.

He finished Saturday's second practice session by driving deep down field and then circling to his left to make a diving, rolling catch of slightly under-thrown long bomb on the final play of team drills. It's the kind of thing Streets has been doing since minicamp began late Friday morning.

After gaining confidence while establishing himself as a starter last season, Streets clearly is the most polished and impressive WR in camp with Owens sitting out of team drills.

The sleek Streets' slick skills quickly have caught the eye of new Niners' coach Dennis Erickson.

"Tai Streets is very impressive to me," Erickson said. "He really jumped out at me. He's an impressive player, route runner, and he catches the football."

Streets was catching some attention and raising some eyebrows in the offseason through some comments made by his agent, Ralph Cindrich. While Streets spent the offseason away from football and the 49ers, Cindrich spent that time telling reporters the receiver was unhappy in San Francisco and wanted to play elsewhere.

Streets had expected to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of his breakthrough 2002 season, when he established himself in San Francisco's starting lineup as a legitimate receiving threat opposite Owens. Streets recorded career highs of 72 receptions for 756 yards and five touchdowns in his fourth season with the 49ers.

But in February, the NFL ruled that Streets was a restricted free agent because he had appeared in only two games during his rookie season of 1999. The 49ers immediately tendered him a one-year contract at $1.318 million with a first-round pick as compensation should another team sign him to an offer sheet.

Streets visited the New York Jets, and San Francisco reportedly came close to a deal that would have sent him to New York. Streets name was mentioned in trade talks with other teams, and the perception existed that Cindrich was speaking for Streets when Cindrich said his client wanted out of San Francisco.

Streets said that isn't necessarily so.

"I tried to stay away from what was said and all that stuff and have an offseason at home," said Streets, who coached an AAU basketball program in the Chicago area during his time off. "It was just things that transpired and all that. I haven't really talked to (Cindrich) about that. It was all very confusing. … I guess he thought I was a free agent and that's how that came about. He just wanted a fair opportunity for me."

The Niners have no plans to trade Streets now, and are looking for a big season from him in his contract year. Streets has put the offseason speculation behind him and he plans to sign his tender with the 49ers in the next week. He is focusing only on the upcoming season, but says he would like to play in San Francisco beyond that.

"The 49ers wanted me," he said. "So I want to go out here and do the best I can and get ready for this season and go from there. I'm going to play hard and get better and not worry about all that other stuff. I enjoy thus far what's going on. I feel I'm primed for a great season."

Niners Digest Top Stories