SANTA CLARA — There always are close bonds between NFL teammates, but the relationship between 49ers safeties Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga is unique.
The veteran safety spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday revealing that his younger counterpart might influence if returns to the club for a second season.
Prior to signing with the 49ers in August, the 11-year veteran simply had the goal of playing in 2022. He now plans to "decompress" before making a decision about his future.
“He will be one of the sole reasons, honestly, for me wanting to continue playing,” Gipson said. “Because that’s how much love I've got for him. I wouldn’t be here without him. That youthfulness, I can’t tell you enough.”
In the locker room after the 49ers' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, Hufanga knelt in front of Gipson while holding his hand, with tears in his eyes. The two defensive backs shared a long embrace knowing they might have played their final game together.
“It still gets me choked up,” Gipson said. “The loss hurt, but seeing him -- it hurts that I can’t experience this with my guy. I know he has such a long career ahead and my window is short.
"We didn’t do enough to do that dance together, and we were so close, but I’m so appreciative of the season and to witness his growth."
Gipson played well enough on his one-year contract to warrant the 49ers' interest in bringing him back for another season. The 32-year-old defensive back, however, is considering retirement in order to spend more time with his family.
The 49ers' season might have ended at Lincoln Financial Field, but Gipson and Hufanga did achieve some accomplishments alongside one another.
A goal the two defensive backs outlined at the start of the season was to help Hufanga earn a Pro Bowl nod and be voted an All-Pro. Hufanga, in his first season as a starter, achieved both.
The USC product constantly gives Gipson his dues, which has been humbling and invigorating for the veteran at the same time. It wasn’t a one-sided relationship.
“He gives me so much credit,” Gipson said. “The funny part about it is, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve done without him. It’s just kind of one of those things where [it's an] even-keeled relationship. I wouldn’t be here talking to you, if it wasn’t for a guy like Huf, from Day 1.
“He doesn’t even know a lot of the things he did that were so impactful in my life.”
Gipson explained that through his 11 seasons with five teams, he still keeps in contact with several of his teammates, but his relationship with the sophomore safety was one-of-a-kind.
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“Never a situation like this where this is family,” Gipson said. “Huf is family. Huf is different. I cherish it a little more. Maybe that’s the dad in me. Hopefully he lets me write his Hall of Fame speech.
“He is a lifetime friend. You don’t really find that in locker rooms, being here a short time as I have. I can’t be thankful enough.”