Joe Staley

Stuck in doldrums, Joe Staley goes in-depth on uplifting talk with Kyle Shanahan

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AP

Stuck in doldrums, Joe Staley goes in-depth on uplifting talk with Kyle Shanahan

The 49ers were mired in a losing streak to open the season, and five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley was not feeling great or playing well.

And for the first time in his 11-year NFL career, Staley could envision the end of his career rapidly approaching.

Staley described on The 49ers Insider Podcast how a long sit-down conversation with coach Kyle Shanahan got him refocused to not only finish the season but energized for future seasons with the organization.

“I was just kind of in the doldrums, and my mood was not good,” Staley said. “I wasn’t coming to work with the same kind of enthusiasm that I usually come in with. I actually sought out Kyle and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to sit down and have a conversation. I have to talk to you. I just need to get out of my own head right now.’ ”

Staley’s knee was acting up and he said he felt like he was in a professional rut. He was learning a new scheme under the franchise’s fourth head coach in four seasons. The team was rebuilding. He turned 33 in August.

“Is this going to be my last season? You kind of get weighed down by that stuff,” Staley said. “You have a career and you think about how you want it to end. It was the first time I was thinking about that stuff.”

Staley credits his conversation with Shanahan for assisting him in turning around his attitude.

“It was beneficial for me and that speaks to the kind of person he is -- to be about to sit down with a guy that’s older and dealing with stuff as a first-time head coach and be able to really sit down and get me refocused,” Staley said. “It was a big help to me this year.”

It also did not hurt that the 49ers shortly thereafter acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots and concluded the season on a five-game win streak.

Whereas earlier in the season, Staley thought this could be the final season of his career, he recently told his wife, “Hey, I’m going to be a football player for a little bit longer.”

He said of his early season thoughts of retirement, “I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment. I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that.”

Staley said he felt he finished the season playing some of his best football. He feels energized by the direction of the organization under Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and the new quarterback.

“He’s got everything you want,” Staley said of Garoppolo. “We’re excited about him. (But) collectively, it’s everything.

"Obviously, we’re excited about the quarterback and what he’s brought to the team and the franchise. His play has elevated everybody around him. Also, too, with the head coach and the front office, you see the guys they’re bringing it. You know they get it. All coupled together, it’s fun. I wish I were a lot younger.”

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

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AP

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

SANTA CLARA -- Just hours before John Lynch was announced as a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist for the sixth time, he spoke glowingly about a young, promising safety.

Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl performer during his 15-year career. In his role as 49ers general manager, he saw a lot that he liked from seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert two weeks ago against the New York Giants.

Colbert, making his first career start, sustained a broken thumb early in the game. He still played every snap on defense, recorded four tackles and showed his range in the deep middle to break up two passes.

“That was a really, really good football game and he displayed some things in that game that are characteristics of a starter and a big-time starter,” Lynch said during a 45-minute session with reporters on Tuesday at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on free safety Jimmie Ward, whom they appear to view as their starter for next season. But Colbert has a chance to figure prominently in their future, too.

“If he plays like he did last week, you consider a lot of things,” Lynch said.

Here are other things you need to know from what Lynch said on Tuesday:

SOLOMON THOMAS ON TRACK
The 49ers invested the No. 3 overall pick on Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. He appeared in eight games, with six starts, before missing the past two games with an MCL sprain.

Thomas has not been spectacular, recording 26 tackles and two sacks. But Lynch said he is pleased with Thomas’ development.

“I think some people are saying, 'The No. 3 pick, maybe perhaps should be a little more dynamic.' But his play has been solid," Lynch said. "We knew it would be a process. He's a young kid that I think, physically, he's going to grow in stature."

BODY MAKEOVER FOR JOSHUA GARNETT
Guard Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, did not distinguish himself during the offseason program or early in training camp. Then, he sustained a knee injury with a lengthy timetable for recovery.

His timetable would have enabled him to play this season. But the 49ers opted to take “the long-term view” and place him on season-ending injured reserve to put him in a better position to realize his potential upon his return.

But, first, that means Garnett had to change his body composition. Lynch said he challenged Garnett and the team’s strength and conditioning staff to put in the work to make Garnett stronger, more agile and in better condition to succeed in the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme.

“We certainly hope he responds,” Lynch said.

CONTRACT TALKS ONGOING
Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo, Carlos Hyde, Dontae Johnson, Eric Reid, Daniel Kilgore, Aaron Lynch or others, the 49ers have been active in discussing the possibilities of contract extensions.

John Lynch declined to speak about which specific players the organization is trying to extend beyond this season – only to say there are ongoing talks.

“I will tell you there are players we’re talking to their representatives, but I’m going to get into who, when, why,” Lynch said.

BOOKEND TACKLES PART OF THE PLAN
The 49ers are allowed to enter into extension talks with Trent Brown after this season. Whether they are able to work out a long-term contract remains to be seen, but Lynch made no secret he hopes he can keep the tackles together into the future.

Left tackle Joe Staley, 33, appears to have at least a couple more season in him. He scored some big points with the organization with his willingness to return to action just two weeks after sustaining a broken eye socket.

“We love Joe Staley -- love the way he plays, think he’s a really good scheme fit for the offense we play,” Lynch said.

Lynch said he likes the idea of keeping Staley and Brown together for the foreseeable future.

“We feel there are a lot of places where we need to improve,” Lynch said. “And you’re always trying to improve, but those two guys are cornerstones for the next couple, few years.”

ARMSTEAD HAS 'BRIGHT FUTURE'
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead has not produced like a first-round draft pick. And the next time he takes the field for the 49ers, he will be entering his contract year.

Questioning Armstead’s fit for the 49ers’ defensive scheme is reasonable. But Lynch said he believes Armstead has a place with the organization.

“We’re real pleased,” Lynch said. “We think he’s a fit with what we are and who we are, going forward. We think he has a bright future with us.”

Armstead had his best game this season against Washington, a game in which he sustained a broken hand and required season-ending surgery.

“He put it all together,” Lynch said. “It was very encouraging and, at the same time, disappointing.”

ORGANIZATION STUDIES RASH OF INJURIES
The 49ers have 18 players on injured reserve with a variety of physical conditions that knocked them out of action from broken bones to torn ligaments and tendons.

“Some of those things are freak, but, yes, there has been an alarming amount,” Lynch said. “We’re going to study everything. That was part of what I was charged to do, evaluate every facet of the football part of this organization.”

There do not appear to be any obvious answers. Many teams around the league are also experiencing a rash of injuries to star players. On defense, the 49ers lost Armstread (broken hand), linebacker Malcolm Smith (torn pectoral tendon), and safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt (broken forearms) for the season.

“Some of it, broken forearms from two safeties and a broken thumb from a safety, I don’t know what the answer is there,” Lynch said.

“We’re going to take a deep dive – we already are – into why and if there are any common threads. We’re studying it hard.”

Joe Staley: 49ers' first win 'felt just as good as winning NFC championship'

Joe Staley: 49ers' first win 'felt just as good as winning NFC championship'

It's been a while since the 49ers won a game that counted, so you'll have to forgive them for their boisterous celebration.

But for one long-time 49er, the feeling after the 31-21 win over the Giants on Sunday compares to the biggest win of his career.

"In the 11 years I've been here, this win felt just as good as winning the NFC championship," left tackle Joe Staley told reporters after the game.

Staley, drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft, was a member of the 2012 49ers that beat the Falcons in the 2013 NFC Championship game to advance to Super Bowl XLVII.

"It was unbelievable because I know how close this team is, you know, on the outside looking in, an 0-9 record coming into today's game, young team, everybody just doesn't see what we see in the locker room. I understand how close we are. No one has ever wavered, no one has ever pointed fingers. We've all just buckled down and that's a tribute to Kyle [Shanahan] and the leadership group he brought in with the front office and his coaching staff," Staley said.

Staley returned to action Sunday after missing one game due to a fractured orbital bone suffered against the Eagles on Oct. 29.

"Also, the veteran players that are really keeping everybody locked in because you're not going to win games, you're not going to turn things around by pointing fingers. Guys really bought in, guys really believe. I'm really excited to see where we go from here and get back to work after this bye week because I think we've really got something special here. The record doesn't say it, but I'm really excited about it," Staley said.

After the bye week, the 1-9 49ers host the Seahawks on Nov. 26.