More than a week into his retirement from professional football, ex-49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is having no second thoughts -- even after the man he thought would take his place is also leaving the sport.
When Willis' former teammate, Takeo Spikes, asked him during a sit-down interview Pro Football Talk that aired Thursday on NBC Sports Network to gauge his chances of making a comeback on a scale of one to 10, Willis answered, “Zero.”
Willis officially announced his retirement after eight NFL seasons on March 9. He took part in a press conference the following day to elaborate on his decision. Afterward, Willis assured a group of reporters that he was confident in Chris Borland to step in and that the 49ers would not experience much of a drop-off.
But just two days later, Borland informed 49ers general manager Trent Baalke of his own decision to call it quits.
In his interview with Spikes, Willis re-emphasized how his feet are responsible for moving him onto the next phase of his life.
“To the point where people are like, you talk about it so much that it becomes redundant and people are just like, ‘Quit talking about your feet,’” Willis said.
“They don’t know what I truly feel. They might think they have an understanding. Unless you have played eight years and you’ve had bad big toes like I’ve had and you put forward the effort and body of work that I have, on the stage that I have, unless you’ve done that then you really don’t understand what I’m trying to say.”
Willis made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven NFL seasons. He was signed through the 2016 season at scheduled salaries of $8.3 million and $9.1 million. He said he never played the game for money and would have accepted less throughout his career.
“It’s because, man, it’s fun,” Willis said. “When you’re around good people, when you’re around people like brothers, you’re fighting, you get upset at each other sometimes, but when you have a close-knit team where you got a bunch of guys it was fun for me.
“I’ve always enjoyed it and it’s always been a special place for me, like a sanctuary or something in a sense where it’s almost like an escape. But what I couldn’t escape was that I was feeling in my feet. Like something was telling me there was only a matter of time.”