There is no truth to speculation that Colin Kaepernick and his protest have divided the locker room, according to the team’s most-tenured player.
When asked this week on CSN Bay Area’s "The 49ers Insider Podcast" whether everyone in the 49ers’ locker room is pulling in the same direction, left tackle Joe Staley answered, “Yeah, 100 percent.”
“I feel the locker room is really close,” Staley added. “I don’t feel any of that division people from the outside are saying at all.
“I wouldn’t need to tell you if there was. I think any kind of division like that is pretty evident. I don’t think that’s going on at all. . . I don’t see that around this locker room at all.”
Kaepernick’s protest, in which he has taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem to bring attention to racial inequality in America, has been joined by seven 49ers teammates.
Eric Reid and Eli Harold also took a knee before the 49ers’ game last Sunday in Seattle. Antoine Bethea, Jaquiski Tartt, Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser and Mike Davis raised their fists during the national anthem.
During the podcast, Staley, a 10-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowl player, addressed other topics, including. . .
--He was all but certain the Baltimore Ravens would select him with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told him as much in a text message.
“I got a phone call from the Niners, and I was telling them, ‘Hey, sorry, I’m going to be taken by the Ravens at 29.’ And they were like, ‘Hey, wait, wait, wait. We traded up to take you,’” Staley said.
The 49ers sent a fourth-round pick in 2007 and a first-round pick the next year to the Patriots to move in front of Ravens to select Staley with the No. 28 overall selection.
--Staley recalls a career-changing game during his rookie season when he faced the New York Giants and defensive end Michael Strahan.
“He was the first player I went against and I was like, ‘Holy cow, I’m going against Michael Strahan. This is awesome,’” Staley said. “I was really nervous, and it got in my head. The night before I didn’t sleep at all. I couldn’t fall asleep. I was really nervous and anxious about the whole thing. It taught me a lot. It taught me if I wanted to have a career in the NFL, at all, I got to get over that ASAP. I’m here for a reason. I belong here. Don’t look at any opponent as being anything beside an opponent.”
Staley, who played right tackle in his first NFL season, surrendered 2.5 sacks to Strahan that day.
“I remember I called my dad from the bus, and he was like, ‘Hey, that was a rough one.’ I almost had a nervous breakdown,” Staley said.
“There are so many expectations of me. They drafted me in the first round. There’s all this pressure. My dad was like, ‘Settle down. Go back to work and don’t forget what brought you this point.’ It was hard work and preparation, and don’t lose sight of that. I learned probably the most in that one game than I did in any other game.”
--Staley recognized the strides second-year right tackle Trent Brown has made after being a bit overwhelmed as a rookie, too. Staley said he continues to push Brown, who he believes can develop into one of the top offensive linemen in the game.
“He came in last year and really didn’t know what he didn’t know,” Staley said. “And he didn’t know all the work you have to put in. You see the size, and his frame, and his quick feet and all that stuff, but last year, and he’ll be the first to tell you, too, his work ethic wasn’t where it needed to be, his preparation wasn’t where it needed to be to be successful.
“Sometimes I got to get on him a little bit and remind him, ‘Hey, that’s not the way we practice; that’s not the way you practice. . . Let’s focus a little longer in meetings.’ But from where he was when he first got here to where he is now is night and day. I’m happy for him and proud of him. But he’s still going to tell you, too, he’s nowhere near how good he can be. He can still work harder and be better, but I’m really excited about him.”