Brandon and Johnnie
There typically is professionalism from both parties when an established veteran joins a new team to compete with younger players for a starting berth. But with just one weekend down in San Francisco's month-long summer camp, Morton and Lloyd already seem to be taking it to a level beyond that. "Me and Johnnie, we go way back," Lloyd said with his charismatic cackle. Actually, the two – who share the same agent, David Dunn – only met a few years ago and have been passing NFL acquaintances since then. But now it's time for them to get buddy-buddy with Morton bringing his 603 career receptions, sure hands and crisp route-running to the equation to push San Francisco's young and unproven unit to higher performance. Some might say Morton also was brought in to specifically push the talented Lloyd to higher performance, since both players clearly are best suited for the split end position – the only place Morton has played during his previous 11 productive NFL seasons. Lloyd already is pushing back, so to speak. Or maybe a better way to put it is he's giving Morton a little tug from the side. "I told Johnnie when he was coming out there, ‘I'm going to be in your hip pocket,'" Lloyd said. "And he was, like, ‘Good. I want you there.' I wouldn't be a very smart guy to not pick his brain any chance I get, so that's what I try to do." He already appears to be doing it well. There has been good-natured banter between the two wideouts, but also some serious conversation with both appearing receptive to the other's overtures. Even if it means getting a little heavy at the hip, Morton is all for Lloyd's attentive interest in what he brings to the table. Morton, who has been a starter in 146 of his 169 NFL games, ostensibly is battling Lloyd to avoid reserve status for the first time since his rookie season, but he already has taken a shine to Lloyd's enthusiasm. "I admire that," Morton said. "Because, when I came into the league – some of the guys are different, some guys come in and they think they know everything – but I was a first-rounder and when I came in I was asking everyone every question I could think of because I always wanted to learn. So I respect that (Lloyd) wants to learn and I'll help all these guys, because everything I've learned over 12 years I can pass down and give them shortcuts because it's kind of like building volumes of knowledge and I just can hand it to them and go from there." Lloyd appears to be getting most of the early handoffs. Whether or not Morton has anything to do with it, Lloyd is off to a fine start in camp, separating from bump coverage at the line of scrimmage, running sure and polished routes and climbing into the air to catch everything that comes his way. Morton also has made a solid first impression, making quick cuts to get open at will and then displaying the hands that have put him 34th on the NFL's all-time chart for career receptions and 12th among active players. Both players have looked better in the early stage of camp than Arnaz Battle, who entered the summer projected as the starting flanker in an offense that usually makes that position the No. 1 option in the receiving progression. Coach Mike Nolan has noticed. He also has noticed the wavelength that's developing between the wily veteran and young up-and-comer. "Obviously, there's an experience factor there that is widely different," Nolan said, noting that Lloyd just became a NFL starter last year and Morton has been starting in the league for the past decade. "Any player who has that many (NFL) starts plays with a lot more confidence and is a lot more sure of what he's doing. Brandon is certainly a guy that can learn a lot from (Morton) and I've noticed that Brandon is kind of hanging with him a little bit." Hanging, and absorbing. "Brandon is one of those guys that wants to learn and he wants to be good and is not too stuck on himself that he's not going to ask some guy that knows," Nolan continued. "Some guys are that way and their development is very slow. I believe Brandon will learn a lot from him." Both players are taking their cue from new 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, whom Morton worked with when both were together four seasons in Detroit. Morton said he'll be able to help Lloyd and San Francisco's other receivers "translate" Sullivan's message when the successful coach turns stern, but Lloyd already adapted to Sullivan's style before Morton arrived on the scene, lauding the new coach's approach. "The good thing about Johnnie is he's bought into – and been successful in – coach Sullivan's system," Lloyd said. "So, not only is he successful, but he's also well-versed. I don't see coach Sullivan going anywhere and I don't see (Morton) going anywhere. So the only way to make sure I don't go nowhere is to be very good about what's being asked of me. I've already been through some phases here. Now I'm just trying to be more like Johnnie. That's the kind of receiver I want to be."
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