Offensive tackle Joe Staley answered questions in the 49ers media auditorium Thursday. Here’s a transcript.
Q: How big is the challenge of learning a new system this year now that Kyle Shanahan is your coach?
STALEY: His playbook is known as being very intricate and it has a lot of moving pieces and a lot of different things that he throws at you and he expects a lot out of his players. But it’s not something that we’re not accustomed to, having changed coaches so many times over the years that we’ve had to learn a lot of different playbooks.
Q: Do you enjoy that mental challenge?
STALEY: I’d rather not have it. I’d rather have the same system, being in our ninth year with our same offensive coordinator, but it is what it is. But a coach with Kyle Shanahan’s knowledge, I think it’s well documented the way I feel about him and playing in his system and how excited I am about. It’s a challenge that we’re all gladly accepting because of his track record and his overall knowledge of the game.
Q: You’ve talked about guys who are all about football. How does that show up, and are the guys you can point to that have those characteristics?
STALEY: When you’ve been in the NFL 11 years, you see a lot of different types of athletes come and go. You see guys who are incredibly, incredibly talented athletically, but don’t have the work ethic to capitalize on all that athleticism. You see guys who are not talented athletically but have the work ethic to make it. I’d much rather play with guys who just have the work ethic and are all about football all the time. From my sense, the guys that we brought, getting to know them this offseason, we brought in a lot of guys that that’s their mentality. They’re 100-percent football. That’s all they really care about. They have the work ethic, the drive to make themselves the best player they can be.
Q: What stands out to you about Shanahan?
STALEY: His overall knowledge of exactly what everybody’s job is and how it ties directly into every single play being successful. Also just his – I don’t want to say “answers” – but seemingly endless answers to everything a defense can throw at you. Sometimes you see coaches – I’m not speaking from personal experience – but just the hypothetical that a defense wants to attack you a certain way, some coaches will be like, “We can’t run this play.” From what I’ve worked with with Shanahan, it’s not going to deviate from what his offensive game plan is, from what his offensive system is. He says, “If they’re going to do that, we’re going to do this. If they’re going to do that, we’re going to do this.” He always says it’s whoever has the clicker last wins. He can always go with a different thing to attack what a defense wants to do.
Q: What stands out to you about Brian Hoyer?
STALEY: He’s very, very competitive. One of the most competitive people I’ve been around. That’s saying something coming from me. I’ve always prided myself on being the most competitive person, but he’s up there. He wants to win at everything he does, and I think that’s a great quality to have in a teammate. Also, just having been in the Shanahan system two separate times – this is his third time with him. His overall knowledge of what we’re trying to do. He was very helpful to a lot of the guys as we were coming along in the offseason during OTAs and minicamp, just guiding them and kind of being descriptive on what he’s looking for and what Coach Shanahan wants.
Q: Having played against the Seahawks a lot and having gone against this new defense during the offseason, what’s unique about it in comparison about the 3-4 you’ve run here the past few years?
STALEY: It’s a lot more dependent on the safety play, building that eight-man box, as opposed to the 3-4 which is more about the guys up front, the three defensive linemen who are two-gapping. It’s just completely different styles of defense. Without getting too involved in it, that’s one of the main things I’ve seen this offseason. It’s more eight-man fronts. The safety is down in the box a lot more. Defensively, the guys have to play a lot faster as far as reading keys.
Q: There was a recent study about CTE that showed 110 of 111 former NFL players had it. Does it give you any more pause about the risk associated with football?
STALEY: It’s definitely on your brain – nice pun there. But no, it’s on your mind. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I think about. But you know the risk playing football. You’ve got to be proactive in the treatments and what you do for yourself to keep your brain active and mind occupied, especially after the game of football is done. You’ve got to treat it just like any other injury. You’ve got to rehab it, do what you can do to try to stay ahead of it. The studies are out there. They are what they are. But I don’t think I’m going to change my position. I’m happy playing the game of football. It’s something I love, and I will continue to do so.