Should 49ers be worried about All-Pro offensive star skipping OTAs?

Brandon Aiyuk isn't at 49ers OTAs, but we're not talking about him.
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23)
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) / Chris Unger/GettyImages

Christian McCaffrey was a no-show to the start of 49ers organized team activities. What does it mean, and how big a problem is it?

Repeat after me: Organized team activities are voluntary.

Things don't become mandatory for players to attend until, well... mandatory minicamp. And that's not where the San Francisco 49ers are at with their offseason workouts just yet.

When thinking about players who aren't in attendance during the Niners' OTA sessions, the biggest name that comes to mind is star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who isn't at Levi's Stadium as he awaits a new contract extension, one on which he and his team reportedly aren't close on figures and terms.

It makes sense why Aiyuk is "holding out," even though it's in his right to do so. Why step on the field and risk injury without long-term guarantees? Same goes with fellow wideout Jauan Jennings, who isn't attending OTAs as he has yet to sign his restricted free-agent tender.

That isn't the star name being discussed here, though.

Instead, it's All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey who is a bit of a surprise absentee.

Should 49ers be worried about Christian McCaffrey's absence from OTAs?

McCaffrey, who attended the voluntary OTA sessions a year ago at this time, was a surprise no-show when San Francisco began this phase of its offseason program.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about the reigning Offensive Player of the Year's absence from the workouts, but coach Shanahan didn't seem overly concerned.

"It is voluntary," Shanahan told reporters after Tuesday's practices. "I’m not too concerned about Christian. But no, he hasn’t been here."

McCaffrey, 27 years old, is already one of the league's highest-paid running backs and has a contract that expires after 2025, so it isn't too likely that he's sitting out with the hope of landing an extension or a pay increase.

But it can't be ruled out entirely.

"I’m not sure if that is the case on any of those guys," Shanahan said when asked if McCaffrey not attending was a business-related decision. "I’m not throwing them all in who’s here for that reason, who’s not. But it is all voluntary, so we’ll see when it becomes mandatory."

It's also theoretically possible that, after a heavy-use 2023 campaign, McCaffrey is opting to lessen his offseason workload in order to focus more on training camp and the regular season. After leading the NFL with 2,023 all-purpose yards a season ago, this might not be a bad idea.

All told, however, McCaffrey's absence is a slight concern but not a major one. As Shanahan pointed out, the real concern would be if the All-Pro rusher opts not to attend mandatory minicamp, which begins next month.

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