STOCKTON — The only things missing from the first day of the San Francisco 49ers’ training camp were the projected 100-degree temperatures — and first-round draft pick Mike Rumph.
The 49ers kicked off the NFL’s second-earliest camp on Monday under gorgeous conditions at the University of the Pacific. Terrell Owens was smiling, Jeff Garcia was completely healthy and general manager Terry Donahue was in good spirits even without Rumph, one of just two draft picks who haven’t signed.
But even Rumph’s absence wasn’t enough to cause big problems as the 49ers began eight days of workouts before their trip to Japan to play the Washington Redskins in the Osaka Dome.
Unlike past seasons, when every top draft choice was expected to contribute immediately to a rebuilding club, these 49ers are already rebuilt.
“We’ve been looking forward to having increased expectations,” coach Steve Mariucci said. “For two or three years, we were in such a rebuilding mode. We’ve gone through that, and now we have many pieces of the puzzle together.”
Rumph isn’t expected to be more than a nickel back this season, but his negotiations with the 49ers bogged down on Monday, Donahue said. Since so few first-round picks have signed yet, it’s difficult to assess the former Miami star’s market value.
“He gets a little further behind with each passing moment,” Mariucci said.
The only other rookie remaining unsigned is defensive lineman Josh Shaw, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State who’s still recovering from a knee injury.
But the rest of the Niners seemed to be enjoying what has been an unusual luxury in recent seasons — familiarity with their teammates and their game plan. Twenty of San Francisco’s 22 starters returned from last year’s 12-4 playoff season, with Pro Bowl guard Ron Stone and safety Tony Parrish the only newcomers immediately slated as starters.
“We know the whole playbook already,” defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said. “It’s really just refreshing our minds. In the team meetings (defensive coordinator) Jim Mora flew through all the defenses we put in. We pretty much knew them already.”
Stubblefield helped keep that familiarity fresh by calling his defensive teammates and persuading nearly all of them to spend weeks worth of offseason workouts at the 49ers’ training complex in Santa Clara.
The 49ers wore shoulder pads and helmets during afternoon workouts, but those couldn’t hide the smile on Owens’ face. The mercurial All-Pro receiver pronounced himself finished with minor league basketball “for six months, at least” and even spoke of becoming a team leader this season.
“A couple of friends told me I’ll have to step up a little bit, and I’ll try to take that role,” Owens said. “There are going to be times when I might have to say something, but at the same time, I’m going to perform, and let my leadership come from that.”
It was yet another change of tactic for Owens, who has bemoaned his lack of friends on the 49ers’ roster in the past. But with Owens’ volatile relationship with Mariucci simmering on low for now, the talented wideout seemed happy and healthy — even though he claimed to be “overweight” despite a minuscule body fat percentage.
“We’ve already ironed that out, and it’s in the closet,” Owens said of his disagreements with Mariucci. “It’s not even an issue. It’s not on my mind. We’re thinking about other things.
“Guys around here are hungry. They’re hungry for wins and for a championship. It’s been a while since people were like that around here.”