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Solomon Thomas discusses improved mental health, talk with John Lynch on trade rumors

It has not been an ideal start to Solomon Thomas’ football career. The former third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to find his footing on the 49ers’ defensive line, having tallied just four total sacks in his career, and having a steep decline in sacks (3 to 1), tackles (41 to 31), tackles for loss (10 to 3) and quarterback hits (11 of 6) last season from his rookie year despite playing all 16 games compared to the 14 he played in 2017.

Thomas was a major issue with a 49ers defense that ranked 28th in points allowed (435 total, 27.2 per game), and dead last in takeaways (7, the second-to-last team in the Detroit Lions had 14). He, and the rest of the 49ers’ defensive line failed to generate any sort of consistent pressure, leaving opposing quarterbacks with time to evaluate their reads and make smart passes.

But Thomas acknowledged yesterday that mentally, his mind was in a completely different place for the majority of last season. At the start of 2018, on January 23, his sister, Ella Thomas, committed suicide. For Solomon Thomas, a normally passionate and joyous person by his own account, it took until November to reclaim that passion and joy.

“I’m a person who lives off passion and purpose. Everyday for me, I want to be passionate about everything I do,” Thomas said yesterday. “So just finding that out again, it’s not like I ever that I ever lost that, but a lot of things clouded that. Clearing my mind helped me see that and getting back having fun working out; it took me a while to get there.”

Thomas said he’s now finding joy again in the day-to-day of practices, meetings and workouts.

“Having fun coming to practice, having fun coming to meeting, it took a while to get there,” Thomas said. “And I’ve been able to get there. My life’s been so different ever since I got healthy – I would say November – my life’s been so different, it feels great. Once I got mentally healthy, my life changed. Being me again, because I’m just a guy who goes and a guy who loves life and a guy who tries to bring energy up around me and just be the best I can at everything I do. That’s how I’ve lived my whole life and that’s where I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten. I’m going to keep going.”

Amidst a down season, and correct predictions that the 49ers were going to draft another defensive lineman, there came speculation that Thomas would be dealt. He said he spoke to general manager John Lynch at that time and discussed plans for the future, which seem to include Thomas.

“When all those trade rumors came out, John pulled me in his office and we had a good, nice organic, healthy talk,” Thomas said. “We just talked about plans moving forward, just how we’re excited for this new scheme, how it perfectly fits how I play and how we’re excited for this next year to go. Everything that’s in the past is in the past. I had probably my worst season ever in my life last year and I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in my career right now.”

The hire of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has spurred Thomas on in the early going this preseason. He says he anticipates he’ll match up more often in a three technique (likely alongside DeForest Buckner or Arik Armstead) to try and wreak havok on opposing guards.

“It’s perfect. Getting off, getting the back foot going. Not thinking, just getting off, using my explosion, that is how I play,” Thomas said “An undersized three technique, using my quickness and my explosion, being able to use that in this move. And having the green light, that’s what I need. I don’t need to be reading us in the back. I need to be going and being able to press guards and get on the edge and crush tight ends. That’s how I play and that’s what kind of scheme can bring my strengths out. I love this scheme and (defensive line coach Kris Kocurek) has been great for us.”

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