Coach Kyle Shanahan made an open-ended promise to Joe Staley during the offseason.
Whenever Staley was ready to come back to the 49ers, the door was open.
A slimmed-down Staley has no thoughts of returning to play. But he was interested in checking out whether moving into the coaching ranks is something that would interest him.
The answer: No.
At least, not yet.
Instead, Staley’s return to football will be in front of the camera. He will be an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area on "49ers Pregame Live" and "49ers Postgame Live" before and after regular-season games this season.
Staley announced his retirement after a 13-year NFL career during Day 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was named to the Pro Bowl six times and was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 2010s.
Always known as one of the big personalities in the 49ers’ locker room, Staley remained out of the spotlight last season while in retirement.
“I thought I was going to be in the background forever,” Staley said on 49ers Talk. “And then I spent one season away from football and realized I really like football. Maybe I really enjoyed that thing that I spent the last 20 years of my life competing and spending every free moment of my time doing and thinking about.
“That one year was fun but I was driving my wife, my kids, myself, nuts. And I just needed to be back around the game.”
Staley said he is looking forward to serving as a “brother in arms in the media” to offensive linemen, who are often criticized for bad plays and rarely credited for a team’s successful plays.
“I have a pretty good insight into the anatomy of a play — and why a certain play is successful,” Staley said. “That’s something as an offensive lineman, especially, I always wanted someone who understood and can speak to the fans about why a certain play is successful.
“Yeah, we can all see the quarterback and the running back break a big play, but why was it that way? A lot of times, it’s for the work that was done up front. Just to have an offensive line’s perspective I think will be exciting.”
Staley said the time he spent around the 49ers’ coaching staff last week was eye-opening. He arrived at the 49ers’ hotel in Irvine the day before two practices with the Los Angeles Chargers. He returned home to the San Diego area before the teams met in their preseason game.
“It was interesting to say the least,” Staley said. “I spent a year-and-a-half away from football and the football schedule. And going back Day 1 into that lifestyle, that schedule of football in the building, I was at 4 o’clock, looking at my watch, being like, ‘Are you guys done? This is the longest day of my life.’
“It was really cool to be around football again and also see it from the coaching perspective, not just as a player.”