Much has been made of DeForest Buckner's return to Levi's Stadium on Sunday night, and one of his former 49ers teammates recalled how he found out about the trade that sent the veteran defensive lineman to the Indianapolis Colts in 2020.
Before Joe Staley announced his retirement from the NFL, the longtime 49ers' left tackle sought to directly inform Buckner of his decision. But upon doing so, Staley was shocked to learn that Buckner, too, would be leaving San Francisco.
"Back in March, I had made the decision with my family that I was going to retire and step away from the football field, and DeForest was one of the first players that I wanted to go talk to," Staley said Sunday on NBC Sports Bay Area's "49ers Pregame Live." "I kind of wanted to say, you know, pass the torch a little bit, because this is going to be your team now because he's looked at and viewed on that team as being the culture-setter, the leader for that squad. And he flipped it on me when I thought I was going into the conversation saying, 'Hey, I'm going to be retiring, doing all this,' and he flipped it on me and said, 'I'm not going to be here. I just found out recently that I'm being traded. It's going to be announced in the next couple days.'
"And I immediately went into shock. Like, player-reaction. Like I was still going to be on the team and saying, 'Are you kidding me? How are they going to get rid of him?' ... The leadership that he does, every single day in the locker room, showing guys how it's done. He's a true pro, and I think that culture leadership that he brings is missed right now."
The 49ers enter their Sunday night matchup against the Colts riding a three-game losing streak. Needing a big win, they'll be going up against a familiar face who played a big part in so many of them over the years.