SANTA CLARA — A fresh start in a familiar place is bringing out the best in Nnamdi Asomugha.
The four-time All-Pro cornerback felt right at home Saturday as the San Francisco 49ers practiced in pads for the first time in training camp, using the size and press-coverage skills that made him a star during his first stint in the Bay Area.
Asomugha is looking to regain the form at age 32 that made him one of the NFL's elite defensive players during his first eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders. And the defending NFC champion 49ers are looking for an upgrade in their secondary, which struggled in the playoffs during the team's run to the Super Bowl last season before losing All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson to free agency earlier this spring.
After a forgettable two seasons with Philadelphia, Asomugha feels he can give the Niners a lift in his return to a region where he also starred during his college days at Cal.
With San Francisco coming off its first trip to the Super Bowl in 18 years, Asomugha has felt a lift of inspiration and incentive as he embraces his new team. The 11th-year veteran has never been to the playoffs.
“There's always this feeling of a fresh start because the previous season has never really been that great,” Asomugha said Saturday. “In my career, I've never been on a playoff team, so it's never been like we're going to build off that playoff year from the year before. The fact that they're building off the Super Bowl definitely changes the whole landscape of how this season is going mentally for me so far. It's a fresh start, but it's building off success.”
Asomugha needed a fresh start after his time with the Eagles, who were proclaimed a Super Bowl contender after Asomugha signed a five-year, $60 million deal as one of the NFL's top free agents of 2011. But the Eagles faltered during Asomugha's two seasons and some wondered whether his best days were behind him.