Through the rise and ruin of the San Francisco 49ers offense, tackle Joe Staley has stood as a pillar of strength on the left side of the offensive line.
On Sunday, the veteran lineman reported for his tenth training camp with the team that drafted him 28th overall in 2007, standing as the longest-tenured player currently on the San Francisco roster.
Now on the tail end of an illustrious career, Staley said he wants to help return his longtime team to prominence and end his career on a high note:
“That was one of my goals setting out, to play 10 years for this organization. Here I am, it’s the 10th year. It’s going really fast. We’ve had highs and lows here, but we’re just trying to get back to the top. Finish my career, however many more years I can play, finish out the right way [and win] a Super Bowl. That’s my focus till the day I retire.”
The 31-year-old’s play will be crucial to the 49ers’ ability to compete this year, as Staley attempts to anchor a rebuilt offensive line that looks to improve mightily on last year’s dismal performance.
Staley was one of the only productive members of a line that surrendered the second most sacks in the NFL in 2015.
General manager Trent Baalke invested in reinforcements for the beleaguered unit this offseason, bringing in former Pro Bowler Zane Beadles during free agency, selecting G Joshua Garnett in the first round of this year’s draft, and receiving the welcomed addition of T Anthony Davis, who was reinstated from the NFL’s reserved/retired list on Friday.
Beadle’s will take his place next to Staley on the left side of the line, attempting to replace G Alex Boone, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason.
While the pair’s ability to play together will be crucial to the line’s success, Staley stated he was already impressed with his new running mate.
“I knew him before he got here. He’s one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around. His football intelligence is unbelievable. So everyday we just kind of run out there and get our reps, and we’re getting used to playing next to each other, getting the full-speed stuff against the team…It’s a process everyday, everyday is a new day to get better.”
Pundits and fans alike have tempered their expectations of the 49ers’ ability to compete this year, and Staley told the media that he believes this team can win a Super Bowl.
Heading into the twilight of his career, Staley doesn’t have time to spare in attempting to orchestrate long-term rebuilds:
“Rebuild years, all that stuff, that’s B.S. to older guys. That’s B.S. to the guys that give everything they have to football. I’m never ever looking for anything less than to hold the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. I think it’s realistic with the team we have but we have a long, long way to go.”
With yet another offensive coordinator and another offensive system in place, it remains to be seen how Staley will do in Kelly’s zone blocking scheme. But if the veteran wants a chance at holding the Lombardi again, he’ll have to maintain his high level of play to give his offense a chance at succeeding.