At long last, wide receiver Braylon Edwards suited up with the 49ers on Thursday, some six years after touring their headquarters and stumping to become their No. 1 overall draft pick.
"Let's say you do draft a quarterback. Who's he going to throw to?" Edwards asked reporters during that 2005 pre-draft visit. "You obviously will need somebody for the quarterback to throw to.
"I thrive in big games, big stages. I'm a very intellectual, very intelligent person, so picking up the offense is nothing for me. We played in the West Coast offense (at the University of Michigan), so I just think it would be a really good fit."
It might be a more perfect fit now.
First-year coach Jim Harbaugh, a fellow Michigan man, is reinstalling the West Coast offense. The quarterback slated to run those schemes is Alex Smith, whom the 49ers still are deploying after taking him No. 1 and ahead of Edwards, the No. 3 pick by the Cleveland Browns.
Thursday's ratification of the collective bargaining agreement allowed Smith and other recently re-signed or newly acquired players to partake in their first practice of training camp.
That included Edwards, who caught a couple of passes in a No. 81 jersey but none from an admittedly rusty Smith.
"Make no bones about it, I'm here to be the guy, to make plays and to complement whoever is on the other side, like if it's (tight end) Vernon (Davis)," said Edwards, who helped lead the New York Jets
The 49ers have made several resounding moves this week to address roster holes. Mere hours before Edwards signed a one-year deal for $3.5 million, the 49ers added veteran safety Donte Whitner, whose reported three-year, $11.75 million contract ($4 million guaranteed) apparently swayed him at the last minute from the Cincinnati Bengals' offer.
Edwards and Whitner celebrated their 49ers arrivals with posts on Twitter, including one exchange between themselves. Whitner wrote: "Bray I signed there today also ... let's get a RING!!!!" Edwards responded: "Lets do it fam!"
The only player on the 49ers' roster with a Super Bowl ring is center Jonathan Goodwin, who signed a three-year deal on Wednesday and left behind a New Orleans Saints franchise that won its first Lombardi Trophy two seasons ago.
"It's an experience I still have a hard time putting into words," Goodwin said. "Hopefully I'll get to experience that again here in San Francisco."
The 49ers haven't experienced a playoff game since the 2002 season or a Super Bowl triumph since the 1994 campaign. They've gone eight seasons without a winning record, a slide that was only 2 years old when Edwards made his pre-draft visit.
"I thought there was a chance I could go first to Mike Nolan's team, but I'm here now," Edwards said. "Nothing really has changed here, with the exception of players and coaches and cafeteria and players' lounge."
The 49ers popped up on Edwards' free-agency radar Monday, and his Wednesday-night visit included dinner at the same spot he ate on his 2005 stop (Birk's, in Santa Clara).
"We were looking for that big-stature receiver," Harbaugh said. "He's hungry. He wanted to be here, and we're excited."
The fact Harbaugh played at Michigan shortly after Edwards' father did helped in the recruiting process, along with Edwards' hopes that a change of scenery could distance him from recent off-field troubles. He pleaded guilty to drunken driving in July, and even though he was connected with a recent Michigan bar fracas, he believes he'll be exonerated there.
He's not so sure if he'll face league discipline that could result in a suspension, but he said he'd accept one if commissioner Roger Goodell orders that. Harbaugh said he is unaware of whether the league might take such action.
"He's hit some potholes, and you don't want that to spiral any further down," Harbaugh said. "It's time to start doing all the little things right. He knows that and is capable of that. He's a good guy. I'm looking forward to working with him."
For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers.