49ers Talanoa Hufanga eyes full return by Week 1 of 2024 regular season

Jun 11, 2024, 2:51 PM

Talanoa Hufanga #29 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates an interception intended for Tank Bigsby ...

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 12: Talanoa Hufanga #29 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates an interception intended for Tank Bigsby #4 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the third quarter at EverBank Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

While many of the 49ers starters are finishing up their offseason program this week, Talanoa Hufanga is just getting started, eyeing a return to the field by Week 1 of the regular season.

The San Francisco 49ers former All-Pro safety seemed eager as ever to be out on the field with his team this offseason. Unfortunately he couldn’t, still on the long road back from a torn ACL suffered Week 11 last season.

Despite the setbacks, Hufanga is determined as ever to make a splash in Year 4, both on and off the field.

“The goal is to be ready for Week 1,” Talanoa Hufanga said Wednesday. “The goal is to be in training camp, not the very beginning, but to ramp me up correctly…Try to be smart with it, we’ve had plenty of conversations with training staff and putting me in the best possible situation succeed for myself.”

Time is always a challenge if you’re on the 49ers however. A lot can change in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re the future of the safety position, next you’re on the injury reserve watching your counterparts make a Super Bowl run in your place.

That occurred in 2023, with rookie Ji’Ayir Brown stepping for Hufanga halfway through the season. The rookie performed admirably, showing real promise for the long-term role with the 49ers. A role that his injuried counterpart had already established.

Nevertheless, Hufanga is proud of Brown and everything he accomplished as a rookie.

“For a guy to come in as a rookie, the light is never too bright for him. What he did in the Super Bowl and what he did leading up to that has just been amazing,” Hufanga said.

While only 24 years old, the Oregon native is now one of the veterans at the position group. Only George Odum (30) and Erik Harris (34) have the age and NFL experience senior to Hufanga. The role of veteran leader fell on Tashaun Gipson the past two years. Now, it’s Hufanga’s job to not only improve himself, but the rest of the group as well.

That includes looking after some of the new recruits, including third-round pick Malik Mustapha, another man who looks to compete right away.

“Beefy. Man, that dude is just like, out-lift everyone. He’s like a mini Dre [Greenlaw], how they walk around with this presence,” Hufanga said about the rookie safety.

Both Mustapha and other young defensive backs will got extensive looks this spring and summer, setting up for an interesting training camp to say the least. But while “Huf” is sidelined for now, he’s committed to building back to form slowly.

“I do wish I was out there right now,” he stated. “I tell the guys that all the time. But being patient in this process is a big part of it.”

For a 49er personifying “first one in, last one out”, having to watch from the side as his team succeeded was gut-wrenching and gratifying simultaneously. On the one hand, he wants to compete for his job on a daily basis. On the other, he sees the potential the unit could reach once he returns to full strength by Week 1.

And that potential has another shot at a Lombardi Trophy at the peak, driving Hufanga (and the rest of the 49ers) heading into 2024.

“We came up short, but our goal this year is to comeback with a chip on our shoulder and win the big one,” Talanoa Hufanga said.

49ers 2024 Regular Season Schedule

  • Week 1 – vs. New York Jets (MNF)
  • Week 2 – @ Minnesota Vikings
  • Week 3 – @ Los Angeles Rams
  • Week 4 – vs. New England Patriots
  • Week 5 – vs. Arizona Cardinals

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