Tomsula begins camp doing things his way, with player input
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jim Tomsula walked through the cafeteria on Day 1 and fist-bumped a chef from across the high counter, then asked another member of the kitchen staff about her family.
He was more red-faced than usual after forgetting to apply his sunscreen Saturday for San Francisco's morning walk-through. No protective hat for shade, either.
A first-year NFL coach who made the improbable jump from leading the 49ers' defensive line, Tomsula is doing things his way. That has been the case since he took over for departed Jim Harbaugh in January with no coordinator experience but plenty of life experience.
And he's doing it with his cheery disposition, careful consideration for the schedule to keep his players fresh, and input from other experienced coaches around him and the very guys who take the field every day to play for him.
''You'll probably hear me say this a lot throughout this year, but Coach Tomsula's the most genuine head coach I've ever had in my football career,'' third-year safety Eric Reid said. ''He really cares. If he says something, you can rest assured that he's going to try to get it done. It's the nature of the business, coaches say things and sometimes they fall through, but you can be pretty confident that he's going to do whatever he can do for you. I think the guys respect that. I know I love him. I'll do anything for him. I think that will translate on the field for us.''
As he begins his first training camp in charge, Tomsula has tweaked the practice schedule to afternoon sessions. (Saturday's opening practice began at 7 p.m. and ended under the lights). It's designed to make the most of meetings before and after on-field workouts while providing time in the middle of the day for weightlifting and a bit of a break from the football grind. Even a quick trip back to the hotel for some rest and recovery.
Tomsula's attention to such details goes a long way in the locker room. So does his humble coaching beginning and unique path considering he once lived in his car while barely making ends meet before coaching took him to NFL Europe and back.
''Tomsula's been someone that's been great to me since I've been here, never acted any different toward me now than he did when I first got here, which I something I greatly respect about him,'' quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
During practice, Tomsula often stood with hands behind his back or arms crossed in front, closely observing the scene before a few hundred cheering fans in the stands. He encouraged second-year wideout Bruce Ellington after a route with a hand slap, then at one point urged his players along with: ''Let's move, let's move, let's move! Come on!''
Tomsula already seems to have the belief not just of his quarterback but all of his players - and it sure didn't hurt that he was already on Harbaugh's staff so there's a trust and familiarity factor. Like Harbaugh, Tomsula has his own signature outfit: A black and red 49ers track suit with a zipper on one sleeve. Harbaugh, of course, had his khakis and pullover.
The similarities really stop there. On Friday, Tomsula pulled out a list and read off the injury report, something he plans to do when appropriate as long as it doesn't put his team at any kind of competitive disadvantage during the season. It's a refreshing approach in the ever-secretive NFL.
New wide receiver Torrey Smith is swearing off social media for a few weeks until he considers himself to be in top form. ''No outside distractions,'' he insists.
''I'm sure if Coach had his way we'd all throw our phones away,'' Smith said.
When later told of Smith's comments, Tomsula - on the podium, facing TV cameras - quickly grabbed his phone and set it down then pulled out his pockets to show they were empty.
''Here, I'm going to put this here so nobody sees it. I don't have phones,'' he said with a grin.
Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini is one of the men Tomsula put around him as a key adviser who has been in his spot. The skeptics already expect him to fail following a season in which the Niners went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.
''The thing I love about Jim, is Jim is Jim. He's going to be who he is, he's not going to try to be anybody else,'' Mangini said. ''Guys appreciate that, that honesty, that sincerity. He does care about the players, he cares deeply about them. That resonates in the locker room.''
Tomsula, who is 1-0 as a head coach after guiding the 49ers to a win in the 2010 season finale, appreciates the faith.
''It makes me happy. I can't fake it, but I think we have a lot of guys here that aren't faking it,'' Tomsula said. ''So, roll up your sleeves, it's the day-to-day. Who shows up every day? If you show up every day with a smile or if you show up every day and you're an angry man, be an angry man every day. Just be that guy. Don't fake it. Be who you are and let's go.''
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