There is never a smooth transition to the conclusion of the season. That rhythm that comes with a normal week of practice and leads into the game suddenly evaporates when it’s a season-ending loss. It’s abrupt and unceremonious, as evidenced, better than anything, but the enveloping of the 49ers locker room with cardboard boxes.
Trent Williams thinking about retirement?
The 49ers played 20 games this year. At age 34, having played in all but three of them, Trent Williams was clearly feeling the wear.
The future Hall of Famer was wiped out on Tuesday. In a walking cast and with crutches for an ankle injury he deemed minor, he was asked about his future.
Has he considered life after football?
Williams admitted he has, especially at this part of the process.
“I mean, it’s a long season,” Williams said. “Having two long seasons back-to-back, that does get pretty grueling for 34-year-old guy like myself, knowing I’ll be 35 when the season starts. You do kind of think about, what’s life look like after football?”
“I’ve done this every year of my life since the second grade, so you do get to that age where, especially after ending the year like this and it being as exhausting as it was and still not getting quite where you want to be, I get it. You get to that age. But honestly I’m just taking it one day at a time and we’ll see how all that goes going forward.”
Only Williams knows what his future holds, but the vibe of his statement felt less like he was immediately considering retirement and more like he was exhausted and expressing the perspective of being in a grueling profession for more than a decade.
From a financial perspective, him leaving would be a surprise.
Williams is about to begin his extension with the 49ers next season. On April 1, he’ll have to decide whether to opt into the 2024 through 2026 seasons, and will guarantee himself $10 million next season by doing so.
Of course, he’s not in any danger of the 49ers cutting him. He’ll be around as long as he’s healthy and interested in playing football.
Kyle Shanahan interpreted Williams statement as more a reflection of the toll of a season than an indication that he’s seriously considering retirement. He expects him back next season.
“If everyone had to do a press conference and talk for a while after these games, I’m sure we’d say a lot of things that didn’t tell you guys exactly everything that’s going to happen for the next eight months, but I didn’t read his words as that’s a big thing for him,” Shanahan said. “I know Trent loves football. I know it’s very hard at his age, in any situation, to do what you do for that long and come up short, but I’d be really surprised if Trent wasn’t fired up in a few weeks.”
The expiring guys
It was evident on Tuesday that many of the players whose contracts were expiring were taking an extra second to soak everything in.
Chief among them are Mike McGlinchey, Jimmie Ward and Azeez Al-Shaair, along with a few others. Ward is almost assuredly not back, and he went on a no holds barred Instagram Live on Tuesday that you can read about here.
It was pretty evident that McGlinchey might not be back. He was repping his agency, CAA Sports, and was honest about the reality that while he’d love to stay with the 49ers, this is his best chance at a great, long-term contract, and he intends to make use of it.
McGlinchey said he “can’t be an idiot” about his free agency, which roughly translates to “I’d love to stay with the 49ers, but I need to get my fair market value.”
He said he’s seen players leave the 49ers and be “heartbroken,” so it’s not a decision he’ll take lightly. For the most part, he expressed a recognition that it’s out of his hands.
But the emotions were there. He cleaned out his locker for the first time since he arrived, saying he found rookie memorabilia, like a photo from Joe Staley’s daughter, Grace.
There’s plenty to look forward to for McGlinchey, though.
He’s getting married in the first week of July to his fiancee, Brooke. In attendance will be McGlinchey’s 17 groomsmen.
That is an accurate number broken down as six cousins who grew up on the same street as him, six of his close friends he grew up with and five “literal” brothers.
“You can’t get married without your best friends up there too,” McGlinchey recalled Brooke telling him.
It’s a lot to look forward to, even as McGlinchey prepares for a possible, if not likely departure. He’s aware that there are myriad critics out there who’d like to see him gone, but said he believes his tape speaks for itself.
“I played great football,” McGlinchey said. “I’m a great player. I can continue to play at a high level and I can still get a lot better. That’s what I’m most looking forward to in this next year. I feel like I’m just getting started.”
Trent Williams backed that up, saying the difference he’s seen in McGlinchey from when he got here to now is “night and day,” and that while he’d love to see him back, he wants McGlinchey to get paid what he’s worth. He made no illusions about the business realities of the NFL.
Moseley is in an interesting situation where, had he hit the free agent market this offseason, he probably would not be in the 49ers’ price range.
But the fact that he tore his ACL and missed the majority of the season means he could be in for a short-term deal that keeps him around.
John Lynch said he hoped to retain him and said he was on the 49ers’ practice field rehabbing in the middle of his presser.
“His commitment to the process is going to be elite,” Lynch said. “And that’s what he’s done. He was down in L.A., rehabbing for a long time, we’ve had him back for the last couple weeks. He’s a free agent. He’s a guy we’d have interest in bringing back because of the way he plays, but also what he stands for. He’s one of us and we’d sure like to have him back.”
Drake Jackson‘s outlook
The case of Drake Jackson was a bit bizarre. He looked promising early on in the year, then effectively vanished.
San Francisco’s top pick of the 2022 NFL Draft was made inactive for the final four games of the season. It left questions about what went wrong and what the future holds.
Heading into an offseason with a defensive line that is essentially just Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Jackson (and Javon Kinlaw?), the 49ers are hoping he can make improvements over the summer.
Kyle Shanahan gave a long answer on Jackson on Wednesday, saying that he wasn’t strong enough in the second half of the year:
I think Drake showed a lot this year on what he can be, but he needs to get to what he can be. I thought he was closer to that earlier in the year.
It was a long season and I think he learned as a year goes, if you lose any power in this league, it gets a lot harder. And we had a decent group of rushers and I think as the year went out and towards the end, it got too long for him, and his body wasn’t quite ready for what we needed. And if we had an injury or something, we were definitely going to get him up, but we felt, towards the end of the year, better with other guys, and still he’s the exact same talent that we drafted.
We’ve really enjoyed the person, but like I said to a lot of our guys in our meeting yesterday, people don’t get what anyone means by how long an NFL season is and all the college players here are coming in, is this what I hear? Is this what I hear? When’s the rookie wall? And it’s the same stuff for veterans who haven’t had to mentally strain the pressure of what you’re trying to do when you’re trying to do something more than just play your games and get to the playoffs. And I think our whole team felt that this year and so, everyone is exhausted and that’s what I want people to know going away.
Yeah, good to get away, because I need to recover, but everything in these next six months is dedicated to how I can make it through that and making it through that isn’t totally natural. You can’t just show up and do that stuff and it goes for rookies more than anything, but it goes to coaches, it goes to all your players, how you sleep right, how you eat right, how you live your life, how you get all your stuff in order, so you plan for that six-to-seven month challenge that you’re going on.
And I think a lot of our guys got to see that, which I think is good for them. And they all say the right things when they leave. And then we’ll see how they handle it when they come back, but when you ask about Drake, he’s got the ability to really help us, so we’re counting on him to do the right things to maximize his ability.
It’s a long answer. What it equates to is that Shanahan is stating, explicitly, that Jackson wasn’t able to prepare his body for the tolls of an NFL season.
This is an enormous offseason for him; San Francisco is going to need him next year.