Stuck in doldrums, Joe Staley goes in-depth on uplifting talk with Kyle Shanahan


Stuck in doldrums, Joe Staley goes in-depth on uplifting talk with Kyle Shanahan

The 49ers were mired in a losing streak to open the season, and five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley was not feeling great or playing well.

And for the first time in his 11-year NFL career, Staley could envision the end of his career rapidly approaching.

Staley described on The 49ers Insider Podcast how a long sit-down conversation with coach Kyle Shanahan got him refocused to not only finish the season but energized for future seasons with the organization.

“I was just kind of in the doldrums, and my mood was not good,” Staley said. “I wasn’t coming to work with the same kind of enthusiasm that I usually come in with. I actually sought out Kyle and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to sit down and have a conversation. I have to talk to you. I just need to get out of my own head right now.’ ”

Staley’s knee was acting up and he said he felt like he was in a professional rut. He was learning a new scheme under the franchise’s fourth head coach in four seasons. The team was rebuilding. He turned 33 in August.

“Is this going to be my last season? You kind of get weighed down by that stuff,” Staley said. “You have a career and you think about how you want it to end. It was the first time I was thinking about that stuff.”

Staley credits his conversation with Shanahan for assisting him in turning around his attitude.

“It was beneficial for me and that speaks to the kind of person he is -- to be about to sit down with a guy that’s older and dealing with stuff as a first-time head coach and be able to really sit down and get me refocused,” Staley said. “It was a big help to me this year.”

It also did not hurt that the 49ers shortly thereafter acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots and concluded the season on a five-game win streak.

Whereas earlier in the season, Staley thought this could be the final season of his career, he recently told his wife, “Hey, I’m going to be a football player for a little bit longer.”

He said of his early season thoughts of retirement, “I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment. I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that.”

Staley said he felt he finished the season playing some of his best football. He feels energized by the direction of the organization under Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and the new quarterback.

“He’s got everything you want,” Staley said of Garoppolo. “We’re excited about him. (But) collectively, it’s everything.

"Obviously, we’re excited about the quarterback and what he’s brought to the team and the franchise. His play has elevated everybody around him. Also, too, with the head coach and the front office, you see the guys they’re bringing it. You know they get it. All coupled together, it’s fun. I wish I were a lot younger.”

Packers-49ers game features best friends Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh matching wits


Packers-49ers game features best friends Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh matching wits

SANTA CLARA – Matt LaFleur and Robert Saleh are best friends, so it would be no surprise that one had a favor to ask of the other this week.

“I was messing with him the other day,” LaFleur said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “I asked him to call me. I shot him a text message. I said, ‘Hey, would you give me a call? I have a couple questions about your defense.’”

LaFleur, 40, is the head coach and offensive play-caller for the Green Bay Packers. Saleh, 40, is the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. The two will face off Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium.

“That was the last of the communication,” LaFleur said.

LaFleur and Saleh served as graduate assistants on Brian Kelly’s 2004 staff at Central Michigan in LaFleur’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Saleh began work for the Houston Texans in an entry-level position in 2005. LaFleur joined the Texans’ staff as a quality control coach in 2008 after Saleh gave him a recommendation for the job.

LaFleur, whose brother Mike is the passing game coordinator for the 49ers, is in his first year as head coach of the Packers. Saleh is being talked about as a person who will receive interest as soon as this offseason for any and all NFL head-coaching vacancies.

Matt LaFleur's offense will be going head-to-head against Saleh’s defense on Sunday in a game with huge NFC playoff implications. The 49ers are 9-1 and atop the NFC West, while the Packers lead the NFC North with an 8-2 mark.

The Packers coach has known Saleh well for more than a decade, and he is impressed with the alterations he has made to his defensive scheme this season with the 49ers.

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“It’s definitely evolved from the background being Seattle, Jacksonville,” LaFleur said of Saleh. “He’s implemented some more two safety looks and changed some of the rules up. I think he’s done a heck of a job with it.

“You talk about one of the more sound systems in this league, I think that’s a big reason they haven’t given big plays. It’s extremely difficult to get those big plays on that defense. That’s a credit to Robert and his staff, and there are some pretty damn good players on that side of the ball, too.”

49ers' Deebo Samuel named to Pro Football Focus Team of the Week

49ers' Deebo Samuel named to Pro Football Focus Team of the Week

After a rough showing in the 49ers’ first loss of the season against the Seahawks in Week 10, San Francisco’s receiving core came to play in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.

But no one stood out more for the 49ers’ offense than rookie wideout Deebo Samuel.

The South Carolina product hauled in eight of his nine targets in the winning effort, tallying 134 yards receiving.

Without star tight end George Kittle, San Francisco needed another pass-catcher to step up and Samuel did just that. The rookie aptly was named to the Pro Football Focus “Week 11 Team of the Week” for his big performance.

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The speedster dominated with the ball in his hands, too, racking up 49 yards after the catch, and forced two missed tackles.

Samuel will have an exponentially tougher matchup in Week 12 when the 49ers welcome the Green Bay Packers and their stifling secondary to Levi’s Stadium.