49ers receivers coach Wes Welker was among the first to reach out to Travis Benjamin last month when the veteran formally hit the open market. His services were requested in Santa Clara but Benjamin ended that exchange understanding that he'd have to battle for a role with the NFC champions.
That didn't scare Benjamin off. He was ready to come in and fight for a spot in young and crowded position group.
"Before I even got off the phone, we knew I was coming in to compete," Benjamin said in a videoconference with local reporters. "Nothing is given. Everything is earned. That receiver room, everyone in there knows that, on the first day we met, [position coach Wes Welker] told us that, since we have some new guys and a first-round pick coming in, everyone's going to compete. That's what made the room so much better. Everyone knows they're competing, and everyone's helping each other out."
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Benjamin said it was clear early in this virtual offseason program, where position groups are meeting in videoconferences, that this was a tight-knit group. It's also a young one where he's the elder statesman.
Losing Emmanuel Sanders in free agency was a blow, but the 49ers added first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk to a group that includes emerging star Deebo Samuel and another quality option in Kendrick Bourne. The back end of the depth chart should be competitive as Benjamin knows, though his raw speed and return ability will be points in his favor when the 49ers trim the roster before the regular season starts.
He'll compete with Richie James for return gigs, and Benjamin has proved himself in kick and punt coverage as well. He'll also be in the running to use his speed from the slot, though Trent Taylor will have something to say about that.
"It doesn't matter to me, whether it's kick returner or punt returner, wherever I'm placed," Benjamin said. "I'm willing to fill that role and make the best out of it."
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His natural speed and familiarity with Kyle Shanahan's offense from their time together in Cleveland will help him adjust without a true offseason program due to the world's current public health crisis.
He's currently working with some former teammates who also live in South Florida, using an approximately 60-yard expanse to practice away from crowds. Benjamin anticipates the 49ers receivers and quarterbacks getting together in a few weeks, while maintaining proper distance, to start building chemistry where possible in this current climate.
Benjamin said he's excited to work with Welker and join a tight-knit group led by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, with a chance to make a playoff run. That opportunity is certainly valued by a player with just two playoff games experience in eight NFL seasons.
"I've been around for a long time, and I'm at the point where I just want to win," Benjamin said. "That's what brought me to the organization."
49ers' Travis Benjamin ready to compete, earn role in receiving corps originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area