Ex-49ers LB Patrick Willis reflects on decision to retire: 'It was the right time'

Ex-49ers LB Patrick Willis reflects on decision to retire: 'It was the right time'

If Patrick Willis left the NFL too early, as many people he has met over the past three years have suggested, he also wonders: When it would have been too late?

After his surprising decision to retire following the 2014 season after eight years in the NFL, Willis said Tuesday on The 49ers Insider Podcast that he has never second-guessed his decision to walk away – while his feet still enabled him to walk.

“For me, I felt like it was the perfect time -- my body, everything,” Willis said. “The stars aligned for me. I never set out to play this game for anyone else’s expectations or what they thought I should do and how I should do it.

“I believed in myself before anyone else saw it. I never put that in anybody else’s hands. So for me, it was the right time.”

Willis had an incredible run with the 49ers. He was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft from Ole Miss. He was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he went on to earn seven Pro Bowl selections – and five first-team All-Pro honors – in his first seven seasons.

He went on injured reserve in 2014 due to a toe surgery after appearing in just six games. In March of 2015, he announced his retirement from the NFL.

“I always told myself when I no longer had the passion to play, I would let it go and pass it on to the next (man) up,” Willis said. “And I feel like I was able to do that to NaVorro (Bowman) and continue on my path in life.”

Bowman and Willis teamed up for three seasons to form one of the most destructive linebacker combinations the league has ever seen. Willis said his passion diminished at the end of his career because of the pain he endured in order to play at the highest possible level.

Bowman experienced serious knee and Achilles injuries with the 49ers. The club released him last season. After playing the final 10 games of 2017 with the Raiders, Bowman, now 30, remains an unsigned free agent.

Willis said he physically feels a lot better. He can still work out and remain in shape, but he is not able to push his body to the lengths it would take to withstand the rigors of the NFL.

When Willis left the NFL, he said he did not have a great desire to remain involved in football.

But, now, he is sharing his expertise with an online course for linebackers on “CoachTube.” Willis has a tutorial, “Build the Beast,” which addresses warmups, drills, film study, nutrition and the mindset necessary to play linebacker.

Willis said he is enjoying getting on the field and demonstrating some of the drills and techniques he perfected during his career. But he is not sure he wants to make the kind of life-altering commitment necessary to coach football on a full-time basis.

”This game has taken up most of my life,” Willis said. “For me, right now and where I am in this space, I don’t see that path for me at this time. Maybe later, when I’m around my 40s or something.”

How Jimmy Garoppolo's impact on 49ers' offense goes beyond numbers

How Jimmy Garoppolo's impact on 49ers' offense goes beyond numbers

Despite the 49ers finishing with a 13-3 record and advancing to Super Bowl LIV, few NFL pundits seem willing to give Jimmy Garoppolo any credit for the team’s success.

The quarterback needed just eight pass attempts to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, as San Francisco rode a dominant run game and suffocating defensive performance to a 37-20 victory.

Fox Sports 1’s Colin Cowherd isn’t among the detractors and voiced his support for Jimmy G ahead of a Super Bowl showdown with reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

“He carried this team in the middle of the season when they fell apart physically,” Cowherd said on "The Herd" this week. “I’m not a stat guy, I’m an eye guy. Watch the games.”

The success of the run game for the Niners this season didn’t necessitate a lot of pass-heavy games, but Garoppolo still finished eighth among qualified NFL quarterbacks in passer rating.

[RELATED: 49ers taking entire staff to Super Bowl]

When the 49ers have ended up in a shootout this year, Garoppolo has stepped up.

When they’ve needed him to just manage the game and make the occasional throw downfield, Garoppolo has stepped up.

No matter what the scenario, Garoppolo has delivered and this 49ers team wouldn't be anywhere near the Super Bowl without his steady leadership guiding the offense.

Jimmy G now has the chance to solidify himself among the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks when he and the Niners take the field against the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami for Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium.

49ers taking entire staff to Miami for Super Bowl 54, Jed York reveals

49ers taking entire staff to Miami for Super Bowl 54, Jed York reveals

The 49ers will fly to Miami on Sunday to play in the NFL franchise’s seventh Super Bowl. Despite this being a semi-regular thing, CEO Jed York isn’t treating it that way.

York said Friday that he’s bringing all full-time staff to Miami for Super Bowl week and treating them to the game. He even mentioned bringing interns.

That’s, you know, a lot of people on the 49ers’ dime.

“We're taking a lot of people. We wanted to make sure that our entire staff had the opportunity to go,” York said in a meeting with local reporters. “Everybody from [head coach Kyle Shanahan to general manager John Lynch] all the way down to interns, everyone's been a part of this, and we wanted to make sure they're there to help and also celebrate the moment that hopefully gets us over the hump."

That’s an unusual benefit for support staff outside football operations, one that will allow everyone involved with the 49ers to enjoy a week basking in the team’s achievements leading up to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium.

[RELATED: Jed York felt 49ers could reach Super Bowl when they drafted Nick Bosa]

The 49ers are trying to win their sixth Super Bowl title, which would tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the most in NFL history. The Chiefs are currently 1.5-point favorites in this clash of Titans.