If Charlotte defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi is nervous heading into his final season with the 49ers, he isn’t admitting it.
Instead, Ogunjobi said he’s been looking forward to the run-up to the 2016 season, which began Wednesday with the first day of Charlotte’s summer practices.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Ogunjobi said. “Nervous? Not really. Excited? Very much so. It’s kinda crazy out here, because this is the last go-round. So it’s a blessing to be out here, ballin’ with my teammates one last time.”
Ogunjobi, a second-team All-Conference USA selection in 2015, is one of 21 fifth-year seniors on the roster that than have been with the 49ers since the program began in 2012.
But Charlotte went through growing pains last season, its first as a Football Bowl Subdivision program, finishing 2-10 and 0-8 in Conference USA.
Still, 49ers coach Brad Lambert said that experience will prove beneficial, with 15 returning starters (nine on offense, six on defense).
“We’ve got a pretty veteran team, so they’re amped up about getting out here and getting started,” Lambert said. “All the guys are really hungry, because last year we didn’t win a league game.
“They want the opportunity to go out and get a win, and prove they can do that in this league. Everybody’s got a little edge to them, so they’re excited to get back at it.”
The 49ers are healthy heading into the first week of summer practice, getting back a dozen players – chief among them Ogunjobi and starting linebacker Nick Cook – who were limited during spring drills because of off-season surgery.
“All those guys are back, so we’re able to go full tilt,” Lambert said. “They’ve all been cleared, so that’s going to add a fun piece to the summer practices.”
Charlotte’s coaches and training staff aren’t taking any chances, making several changes to the workout and practice routine.
That includes most of the players wearing special padded caps over their helmets to reduce the chances of head injuries.
“We’re always looking out for player safety,” Lambert said. “Concussions are such a big part of the game, and taking care of guys on that front, we want to do everything we can.”