Melissa Jacobs of The Football Girl sat down with San Francisco 49ers veteran tackle Joe Staley for what has become an annual interview. During the sit-down, Jacobs asked Staley about two former teammates, quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore.

Both players had already been in San Francisco for two years when Staley arrived as a rookie in 2007. He played six years with Smith and eight with Gore.

Smith is recovering from a horrific injury sustained with the Washington Redskins. The quarterback suffered a compound and spiral fracture to his tibia and fibula in his right leg during a Week 11 matchup against the Houston Texans. Other complications, including an infection, followed and Smith underwent multiple procedures after the initial injury.

"My heart broke for him," Staley told Jacobs. "It's a tremendous injury, obviously. It's unbelievable what he had to go through and battle through."

Staley added, "Knowing the person, and knowing his upbeat mentality, and kind of the way he's always positive, I know he'll overcome this. It will be up to him, basically, to see what his career holds. I think he's more worried about just being able to be a father to his children and being able to run around with his kids than he is about football right now.

"Obviously, just wish nothing but the best for the guy because he's one of the best dudes I've ever known."

Whenever he's asked about Gore, Staley always tends to light up. This conversation was no different. You can tell how much the former 49ers running back, who is now with the Buffalo Bills after stints with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins, meant to him early in his career.

Gore is entering his 15th NFL season, which is an accomplishment of its own. He is also just 521 rushing yards away from unseating Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders for the No. 3 spot on the all-time rushing leaders list.

Gore has never rushed for fewer than 608 yards in a single season and had 722 with Miami last year.

"Frank can play as long as he wants to play because of the way he works," Staley said. "It has been no secret of mine that he's my all-time favorite football player. Probably as an individual, (he) had the most impact in my career just by witnessing his work ethic as a rookie, first-, second-, and third-year player. It was very consistent. He just came to work every single day. He's pretty famous for his work ethic. That's the reason he's been able to play (for so long).

"People ask me: How have you been able to play here for so long? What's the secret? Just work. The work ethic is where you have long careers, and Frank kind of taught me that early on."

Staley admits that he misses having Gore as a teammate. He also added something else he misses from his earlier playing days.

"Those were good times. I miss Candlestick a lot," Staley said. "I love Candlestick. That was a great, great stadium."

When asked to describe his current home field, the now five-year-old Levi's Stadium, all he could come up with is how hot it is within the stadium.

Speaking of five-year-olds, do you remember that sign Staley's daughter, Grace, made him on the first day of training camp? You can see it below.


Okay, the 49ers are thumbs up. That makes sense. Her dad plays for the team. The Oakland Raiders are thumbs down. That makes sense too. They are that "other" Bay Area team … for one more season. The Seattle Seahawks are "toots." There aren't too many Niner fans that would disagree with that.

Then you had the Denver Broncos being "trash." That one seemed a bit out of place. What have the Broncos ever done to the 49ers?

Staley explained that last one.

"I think maybe just because we're playing them in preseason," Staley explained. "She knows that we're going to go over there. She's getting to the age where she's starting to really take interest in what our schedule is, and who we're playing, and all that stuff. It just was on her mind."

Click here to listen to Jacobs' entire conversation with Staley.