SANTA CLARA — The San Francisco 49ers are hoping a player who spent last season acting in a zombie movie instead of playing football can provide a needed upgrade to what was once a thin receiving corps.
Brandon Lloyd is showing in the first few weeks of offseason workouts in his second stint in San Francisco that he might be able to fill that role and give the Niners another receiving threat to test Super Bowl champion Seattle’s vaunted secondary.
Lloyd has been one of the big bright spots of the offseason so far for the 49ers, making the same type of highlight-reel catches that made him one of the league’s most productive receivers before taking a sabbatical last season to star in a direct-to-DVD zombie movie titled “After Effect.”
“He’s got the ability to burst at the top of his routes,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Runs excellent routes. Acrobatic type of catches that he’s able to make. Really good hands. So far really good. No, it does not seem like a guy that’s had a layoff from football for a year.”
Lloyd signed a one-year contract in April to rejoin the team that drafted him the fourth round in 2003. He caught 105 passes for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns for San Francisco from 2003-05. That included leading the team with 48 receptions, 733 yards receiving and five TD catches in 2005.
Lloyd then played two seasons with Washington, one in Chicago before stints with Denver, St. Louis and New England. Lloyd was cut by the Patriots in March 2013 and didn’t join any other team despite catching 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
Lloyd topped 70 catches each season from 2010-12 and his 221 receptions in that span were the 10th most of any wide receiver in the NFL.
“I know that we played him, he got behind our defensive backs a few times. But when you see him on film, I swear I don’t know how he comes out of the breaks, comes off his start, as fast as he does,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “We’re glad to have him on our team and I know he’s going to make some plays for us.”
Lloyd has shied away from talking about his comeback this spring, saying his focus is on just making the team.
Lloyd and recently acquired Stevie Johnson should give quarterback Colin Kaepernick more options at receiver besides Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Throw in tight end Vernon Davis and the Niners could be the first team ever with five players with 1,000-yard receiving seasons, according to footballperspective.com.
It gives Kaepernick a number of options after having just one receiver — Boldin — catch more than 20 passes last season when Crabtree missed most of the year with an Achilles injury.
“We’d like to think so,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been a good offseason in that regard. Everybody feels now like they belong here. We’ve been here numerous weeks. They know where to go and what they’re doing. I think we can make some real strides right now. I’m pleased with the job everybody is doing.”
Davis and Boldin have mostly stayed away from voluntary workouts so far this spring, while Johnson has nursed a hamstring injury and Crabtree has been getting limited work after getting injured last offseason.
That has given more opportunities to Lloyd, who spends much of practice talking to Kaepernick about intricacies of the offense.
“I think it’s something, a position we’re definitely stronger at this year,” Kaepernick said. “I think we have a lot of weapons at that position that we can use in a lot of different situations.”