The 5-foot-7, 153-pound Banks accepted the challenge and welcomes the chance to be more involved with the offense. He had lobbied for the chance to run pass routes in the past, but coaches were leery of using Banks on offense in fear that his balky knee would get worse, and that the team would lose him entirely.
But now Banks, who last season ranked 20th in the NFL by averaging 23.0 yards per kick return and 21st in the league on punt returns (9.1-yard average), is fully healthy and in the thick of a hotly contested wide receiver position battle.
His position group includes Pierre Garçon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson. But Banks remains undaunted.
“This is what I’ve wanted to do since Day 1,” said Banks, who has appeared to do well during the first five days of training camp. His speed and explosiveness serve him well as he gets off the line and gets separation on a variety of pass routes.
“Now I’m healthy and it’s cool,” he continued. “I feel like I can really help us. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I feel like I’m the best player on this team, the best player in the NFL. That’s my confidence level.”
Banks said that this year, he has a better understanding of the offense and what is expected of him.
Shanahan said more than anything, Banks has benefited from a more serious approach to the game.
“I think he was a little bit banged up, but at the same time, I don’t think he knew how to be a pro player, how to take care of his body,” the coach said. “He didn’t know how to do the little things the right way. I think he’s matured. He understands that if he’s going to play in the National Football League, he’s got to be at the top of his game. He’s had an excellent offseason program by getting in top shape and doing the things he’s got to do.”
And once again, Shanahan reiterated Banks’s need to contribute as a wide receiver.
“He’s well aware he’s got to help us at the wide receiver position and not just special teams,” the coach said. “Anytime they go from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, and they have those kickoff and punts that obviously they kick away from you, he’s got to help us as a wide receiver as well. I think he’s doing an excellent job.”