Not many players can say they've been around long enough to see the ebbs and flows of a single franchise. Joe Staley is one of the few. Drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, Staley has appeared in three NFC Championships and been to one Super Bowl during his 11-year NFL career. But, of course, with the highs came the lows of subpar seasons and a number of coaching changes. It's evident that Staley has endured the turbulent variations of any longstanding NFL career.
Coming off the heels of an encouraging finish in 2017, there's plenty of optimism behind this iteration of the 49ers. Staley said he can feel his team trending up once again.
San Francisco has wallowed at the bottom of the NFC West for the past three years. Now considering the second year under the direction of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, the security of franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the addition of key free agents and more notably, the five-game win streak to close out the 2017 season, Staley believes this franchise is on the rise.
"Because of what we were able to do last season, with the adversity we faced, the way we worked through that, the kind of locker room we have here is really special," Staley said on Monday. "I'm really excited to have Jimmy here locked up long term. A solid foundation that we've got built here. We've got some draft picks coming up this weekend to play with. We added some really key parts in our offense this offseason. So I'm excited to get going."
Staley appeared in all but one game in 2017 due to an orbital bone fracture suffered in Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. In what was set to keep him out for several weeks, he returned after missing just one game. The six-time Pro Bowler has remained relatively healthy throughout the course of his career. As one of the 49ers most consistent players, Staley has missed just four games since the 2011 season. With a clean bill of health, Staley knows he is still at a level to be a standout left tackle.
"[I'm] very encouraged. It's one of those things that's got me so excited going in to year 12," Staley added. "I feel young. I feel really good, physically. Mentally I feel really good, really excited."
Staley, who will be 34 by the start of the season, allowed just 24 total pressures in 2017 and was graded as the second-highest tackle behind Green Bay Packers David Bakhtiari according to Pro Football Focus. The veteran left tackle's steady production also earned him a pay raise on a restructured contract through the 2019 season.
Staley has shown no intentions of slowing down. If Staley and the 49ers continue on this upward trend, his timetable for retirement could be farther away than you might assume.
"I'm just really looking forward to this year and then the next year of my career. And then who knows, if I feel great, I may play another two, three, eighteen. I don't know," Staley joked.