For many in the South Bay area, the return of football represents a beginning: out with the old, in with the new.
Gone are Jim Tomsula and the remnants of the turbulent Jim Harbaugh era. In his stead are former Eagles mastermind Chip Kelly and the promise of a sea change on offense, where not even the quarterback's job is safe. But Colin Kaepernick isn't the only Niners backfield threat that is feeling the pressure this preseason.
Running back Carlos Hyde doesn't feel his role in the regime is safe and is taking this campaign, the all-important third of his career, very seriously.
"I'm approaching this year as a make or break year," Hyde said Wednesday. "I'm going to make it or it ain't going to work. I'm really trying to focus in on this year. To me, this is a huge year."
A quick glance at San Francisco's depth chart reveals that Hyde might be overestimating his stakes this season, as he ranks as RB1 above Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis, Kelvin Taylor and Kendall Gaskins. But this isn't the first time a football player has manufactured his own motivation to succeed, so where's it coming from?
Hyde had a surging start to the 2015 season, running for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the Monday night opener against the Vikings. However, his year was cut short when he suffered a stress fracture in his foot in a Week 7 loss to the Seahawks and never got back onto the field. In the six games following Week 1, he exceeded 55 rushing yards but once. Safe to say, Hyde left some meat on the bone for 2016.
If ever Hyde was going to break out, now would be the time. Kelly is known league-wide for the inventive, high-tempo offenses that he implemented during his time in Philadelphia. The new Niners coach is running back-friendly as well; LeSean McCoy earned 626 carries in his first seasons under Chip. Plus, Kelly has already spoken highly of Hyde, calling him a "stud" in May.
Without a reliable backup at his position, and with the full support of his coach and a rebuilt offensive line, Hyde has no choice but to have a prolific first season with Kelly, and that requires a change in mentality.
"I'm thinking if they're tired, let's go, let's go, let's go," Hyde continued. "Keep your foot on the pedal, press down even harder. ... That's what you got to be conditioned for. You got to be in shape, not out of breath, so next play you can come be explosive. So while they're tired, you're still explosive and they're just falling off while you're running."
There are still many position battles to be won in San Francisco, including a glaring one at quarterback. But at tailback, it's just Hyde, ready to prove himself to his coach and explode past defenses and expectations.