SANTA CLARA -- Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has more than a month to consider what the future holds for him.
On Wednesday, when the 49ers held their final team meeting and cleaned out their lockers at Levi's Stadium, Sanders was more in a reflective mood than looking ahead to the 2020 regular season.
“I enjoyed this season,” said Sanders, whom the 49ers acquired in a trade with the Denver Broncos in October. “I love the Niners organization, so we’re going to see what’s to happen.
“At some point, obviously, I got to switch my mind and think about what’s to come and see what could happen. But as of right now, I’m just a couple days away from losing the Super Bowl.”
Sanders plans to play an 11th NFL season. But he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, so a lot about his future remains unsettled. The 49ers own sole negotiating rights to all the team's free agents until March 16.
Sanders said he has already watched the game film five or six times of the 49ers’ 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Each time, the ending gets more difficult to view.
“It’s like watching the Titanic and you hope the ship just doesn’t sink,” Sanders said. “And for some reason, the ship keeps sinking over and over.
“I go back and watch it again, and you hope that all the plays that we left out there and the possible opportunities that we could’ve come out victorious. But we didn’t and that’s the reality.”
Sanders had his number called with less than two minutes remaining on the 49ers' last chance to pull out the win. He got a step behind the Kansas City defense on a third-and-10 play with the 49ers trailing 24-20. But quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s deep pass was several yards out of reach.
That opportunity got away, and Garoppolo was sacked on fourth down. Sanders said he remains unwavering in his support of Garoppolo, who started all 19 games for a team that won the NFC West with a 13-3 regular-season mark.
“People are going to be hard to Jimmy, at the end of the day, Jimmy, to me, is still a baller,” Sanders said. “A lot of people want to say this and say that, this guy took his team to the Super Bowl, and obviously didn’t come out victorious but we had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and could’ve easily come out victorious.”
Sanders said he was watching some video clips of the late Kobe Bryant, during which Bryant talked about bouncing back after tough defeats. Bryant said after the criticism, an athlete has to “get over yourself,” face the facts and move on.
Sanders said that is exactly what Garoppolo is doing.
“I saw him around today, he was smiling and happy,” Sanders said of Garoppolo. “I know he’s looking forward to the offseason and trying to win a Super Bowl again. That’s why I love the guy because at the end of the day, people are going to say what they want to say, but he remains himself. And that’s why I love this team and this organization because they’re the same way.”
Sanders said he believes the 49ers are here to stay. The road to get back to the Super Bowl is long and arduous, but he said the organization is comprised of the right kinds of people from ownership, general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and all the way down.
“We’re different. This team is different. This organization is different,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t start with the players. It starts with the general manager. From head coach. Those guys are special guys. They’re going to get a group of guys around here. They’re going to win a long time around here.
“I know Niner Faithful is upset about the Super Bowl loss. The people who are controlling the reins of this organization, even from the owners, they’re going to win a long time around here.”