SANTA CLARA — Joe Staley wasn’t sure where to go after 49ers practice Thursday. The locker room he called home for 13 years is now off-limits to him.
That’s because Staley has become a media member, and only team-employed media are allowed in the locker room because of the NFL’s COVID protocol.
So, sure enough, Staley joined the press conference.
He officially debuted in his NBC Sports Bay Area role by launching the first question to George Kittle. Staley tried to tap into his notorious good humor by asking Kittle a rambling question — complete with their Canadian-acent bit from past seasons — before eventually asking why Kittle considered him a favorite teammate.
Kittle’s responded that Staley taught him to “ignore the media” and outside noise.
And then, silence. Their comedy routine flatlined. Kittle begged for other questions from other reporters, one of which led back to Staley’s presence.
“I just want to hug him,” Kittle said. “I don’t know if I can answer questions. I’ll answer them into his ear.”
Kittle and Staley indeed hugged it out, with the slimmed-down Staley hoisting his 250-pound ex-teammate into the air.
— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) August 26, 2021
A week ago, he was embedded with the 49ers in Orange County and tried his hand at coaching during their joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers.
At the time, Staley was expected to pursue an NBC Sports Bay Area role, and he essentially replaces former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia on the pre- and post-game shows.
Staley retired in April 2020, citing a neck condition that hindered him throughout Super Bowl LIV. He currently lives in northern San Diego County with his wife and their two daughters.
Staley attended Wednesday and Thursday practices on the sideline with reporters. Defensive end Nick Bosa approached Staley a few times Thursday for pass-rushing advice.
Staley may be new to an analyst role — aside from “The Joe Show” on 49ers.com during his playing days — but he knows one way to gain initiation: He stocked the media room Thursday with sandwiches and ravioli from Bertucelli’s La Villa Delicatessen in San Jose, which became the 49ers’ go-to spot the past decade for road-trip meals as well as visitors’ spread at Levi’s Stadium.
Kittle’s parting advice to Staley’s broadcasting career: “Just smile more, show your eyes. I got lost in your eyes now. I can’t look away.”
— NBC Sports Bay Area & CA (@NBCSAuthentic) August 26, 2021
Former #49ers LT/captain Joe Staley is in attendance at HQ … transitioning to … his expected role … as a pre/post-game host for NBC Sports Bay Area
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) August 25, 2021