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updated: 8/20/2013 4:45 PM

Former Illini WR dives into life with Chiefs

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  • The 49ers sent A.J. Jenkins to the Chiefs for Jon Baldwin in a swap of wide receivers and disappointing first-round picks.

      The 49ers sent A.J. Jenkins to the Chiefs for Jon Baldwin in a swap of wide receivers and disappointing first-round picks.
    Associated Press file photo

 
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A.J. Jenkins never thought he'd be back in Kansas City so soon.

The former first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers played in a preseason game against the Chiefs on Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium. On Tuesday morning, he was wearing a white shirt with that familiar arrowhead logo while going through a walk-through prior to practice.

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Such is the way of the NFL, where life can be turned upside down in a matter of days.

"Things happen. I'm looking for an opportunity," said Jenkins, traded to the Chiefs on Monday for Jon Baldwin in a swap of wide receivers that have so far been disappointments.

"I mean, right now I'm just looking forward to coming out here and being the best Chief I can be," Jenkins said. "It's an opportunity. I ain't got a choice. It's what I have to work with."

Jenkins was the No. 30 overall pick of the 49ers last year after a stellar senior season at Illinois, where he played with current Chiefs guard Jeff Allen. But the speedy playmaker couldn't barge his way up the depth chart in San Francisco, failing to get on the field until late in the season.

Even then, Jenkins never made a catch in the three games in which he played.

The Chiefs apparently saw enough value in him, though, to offer a fresh start with a change of scenery. They wound up trading Baldwin, the No. 26 overall pick two years ago, after struggling to find a place for his big, physical build in new coach Andy Reid's offensive system.

"We think actually this is going to be good for both teams," Reid said. "Things happen at different places and sometimes a fresh start can be good for guys for whatever reasons. Sometimes guys just don't fit. ... We'll give him a shot and see how it goes."

Jenkins is certainly a known quantity to the Chiefs.

--Reid spent time scouting Jenkins when he was still with the Eagles, and remembers a guy with good hands and an ability to stretch the field, something Baldwin failed to do.

--Jenkins was teammates in San Francisco with quarterback Alex Smith, whom the Chiefs acquired for a pair of draft choices this offseason.

--Allen remembers a guy who brought a spark to the locker room with his engaging and often playful personality at Illinois.

"Obviously I don't know what went on in San Francisco. All I can tell you about is our college days," Allen said. "He brings a different element to the locker room, he's a different character, he brings a lot of energy. A good guy."

None of that helped him get on the field in San Francisco, though. Smith thinks Jenkins struggled to find his place on a veteran team, and when relegated to the practice squad, didn't keep improving.

"It wasn't his job from the jump. He had to come in and battle for it," Smith said. "I thought it was a deeper roster there and for whatever reason it didn't work out. He's a talented kid, tons of speed, and I think the change will do him good."

The swap of wide receivers resulted in significant changes to Kansas City's depth chart.

Baldwin had been working opposite Dwayne Bowe with the No. 1 offense throughout training camp. Now that he's gone, Donnie Avery has moved into the starting lineup.

"We had to feel comfortable that Donnie was a legitimate starter, and we felt that," Reid said. "So we're able to do this and feel comfortable doing it. Donnie has tremendous speed and a lot of experience, too, and he's showing in this offense he can do some good things."

Jenkins doesn't have a whole lot of time to get up to speed.

He was ready for his first full practice on Tuesday, but only has two more days of regular work this week before the Chiefs head to Pittsburgh for their third preseason game. Their last tuneup is next week against Green Bay, and then final cuts are due for the 53-man roster.

If he's able to gasp the offense quickly enough, Jenkins could be on the team when it heads to Jacksonville -- coincidentally, his hometown -- for the Chiefs' season opener Sept. 8.

"Actually, my mom did tell me that yesterday," Jenkins said. "I want to contribute as soon as possible, whether it's this game or the next game. I want to contribute as soon as I can."

Notes: Pro Bowl RB Jamaal Charles (right foot) practiced for the second time after missing the 49ers game. It's still unclear whether he'll play at Pittsburgh. ... OT Donald Stephenson (shoulder sprain), FS Sanders Commings (broken clavicle), CB Dunta Robinson (shoulder sprain), TE Travis Kelce (knee bruise) and FS Kendrick Lewis (flu) did not practice.

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