SANTA CLARA -- Two years ago, 49ers six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley seriously questioned whether he would ever be in this situation again.
His long, up-and-down history with the 49ers makes this year’s NFC West title and return to the NFC Championship Game all the more special for the organization’s longest-tenured player.
In fact, Staley is so excited these days that he is having a difficult time sleeping the nights before games.
“I find as I get older, I can’t sleep very well,” said Staley, 35, a 13-year pro. “I’ve been noticing that the whole, entire season. I just get anxious for games now.”
Staley said he went to bed at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night. He woke up ready to go for the 1:35 p.m. kickoff. But there was one significant problem. He was more than 12 hours early.
“I woke up at 1. And I woke up, like, ready,” Staley said. “I felt like I slept eight hours. I was up and I couldn’t go back to bed until 1:30.
“Then, I woke up at 3. Three? (Expletive deleted.) I get anxious for all the games now.”
He went back to sleep and awakened again at 6 a.m. This time, he decided he was up for good, and he was not going to even attempt to get more sleep.
Staley discovered second-year right tackle Mike McGlinchey had a similar experience. Staley, McGlinchey and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo were up early and decided to drive to Levi’s Stadium much earlier their usual.
“We got here 4 ½ hours before kickoff,” Staley said. “It was the earliest I’ve ever been here. And I did my normal routine, and I realized how much time I had left, and I was like, (expletive deleted), why did I get here so early? So I sat down and had a coffee. I don’t think I’ll do it again.”
Staley appeared in the ninth postseason game of his career on Saturday when the 49ers defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 27-10, in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. Now, it's on to the NFC Championshp Game on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Staley is the only 49ers player remaining on the team who saw action in Super Bowl XLVII when the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
After some down here, Staley contemplated retirement during the 2017 season when the organization was on its fourth head coach in four years.
But he became convinced something would be different under coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. He decided to put his faith in the men at the top of the organization.
“Just being with Kyle and John when they got here in 2017, seeing their vision,” Staley said. “I was at a crossroads in my career. I don’t want to go through another rebuild kind of thing. And listening to them talk about what they believe and the kind of players they were going to bring in here. They wanted to really, really put an emphasis on guys who were going to really love football. High-character, quality guys who were also just bad-asses on the football field.
“They do what they preach, and it’s been exciting to see the build here.”
So exciting, in fact, that Staley can barely sleep.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday)
Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.