Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Staley explains why conditioning changes may be reason behind 49ers’ injury woes

Sep 16, 2021 at 2:51 PM--

Is recent history repeating itself? The San Francisco 49ers have already lost two starters for the season in cornerback Jason Verrett and running back Raheem Mostert. In addition, a report surfaced today that linebacker Dre Greenlaw will undergo core muscle surgery and miss six to eight weeks.

The early losses have to remind players, coaches, and fans of the nightmare that was 2020 when the 49ers suffered through one of the most injury-plagued single seasons in two decades. Even in 2019, when San Francisco earned a trip to the Super Bowl, it had to endure several in-season injuries on the way there.

Earlier this week, former 49ers tackle Joe Staley, now an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, shared some thoughts on why the Niners—and maybe the NFL in general—have such poor luck with injuries.

"[Jim] Harbaugh, when he was our coach, used to always say, 'You have to build a callus,'" Staley said on KNBR. "We were always, at the time, like, 'No, that's just your excuse of why practices are so hard and why we're going so hard in May and June and during the middle of the season.' But I really believe that there is something to that because we always felt very, very healthy, and hardened almost, by the preparation that we had done all season.

"It's like, if you condition your body and your mind to go through hard, hard, hard practices always, you do build up a callus. There is a little bit of that toughening up of your body."

In the 49ers' defense, things have changed over the years, and Staley has witnessed the transformation. League rules prevent teams from overworking players too much. Last season, there wasn't even much of an offseason due to the pandemic, and there were no preseason games. Staley wonders if today's players simply can't endure as much as their counterparts from years ago.

"There's not as much time also spent on-field, and there's a lot more time with the stretching, and the performance science, and there's a lot of science behind it, and all this stuff, but it was different," Staley continued. "... It kind of got away from [the more rigorous training] five or six years ago. I really saw a difference in the way that we train, and the strength staffs, and kind of getting away from the Olympic lifts and the deep squats.

"The lifting of the 90s and 2000s was kind of frowned upon, and it's now much more performance-based and science and what's the best way we can get explosion, all this data. Sometimes, you've just got to go, put a bar on your back, and deep squat, and feel tough about it."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Staley below.

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