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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Why Christian McCaffrey felt “very fortunate” to land with 49ers

May 19, 2023 at 8:37 AM--

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Christian McCaffrey made headlines by saying joining the San Francisco 49ers was the "best thing that ever happened" to him. The Niners traded for the star running back in October, and the team won 12 consecutive games in which he started.

McCaffrey joined NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Friday. He was asked when it clicked that joining the 49ers would be something special.

"I was thrown into the fire pretty quickly, and I think, early on in practice, when I was in the huddle, and I had George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Brandon Aiyuk, Kyle Juszczyk, all these guys," McCaffrey said, "I felt like I was on a Pro Bowl roster, and it hit me that this was a special team. I was very fortunate.

"I came to a team that had built a culture, had taken time to build a culture. To add on top of the roster is, in my opinion, some of the best coaches in the NFL, and guys who know how to use players like myself, and who have been doing it for so long. So I just felt very fortunate to be a part of something that was already so developed, so to say, and like I said, a culture that was established."

McCaffrey wanted to clarify that his "best thing that ever happened" comment wasn't a slight toward his former team—the Carolina Panthers. On the contrary, the running back has repeatedly said he genuinely cherished his time there and, before the trade, imagined being a Panther for his entire career.

"I do want to make it clear, though, it was nothing against Carolina when I said that, " McCaffrey shared. "I meant no bad blood. I love everybody there. Still keep in touch with a lot of my teammates there, a lot of the coaches who I had the privilege of playing for there."

The 49ers' 2022 season didn't end as they hoped. Three of the team's quarterbacks suffered significant injuries. Trey Lance went down with an ankle injury in Week 2. Then it was Jimmy Garoppolo with a broken foot in Week 13.

Rookie Brock Purdy guided the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game but suffered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow in that matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.

While many wonder how far the 49ers might have gone with some better fortune in the health department, inside the locker room, that hunger to reach the mountaintop would still be there regardless of what happened.

"I think this is a part of a team that, regardless of what that outcome was, would still be so hungry for more," McCaffrey said. "The way these guys show up to work every day, and obviously we've all moved on from it now, but definitely still in the back of your head. When you get that close and lose, it definitely fuels a fire and makes you want to get back there again.

"I think guys are hungry, guys are ready to roll despite the outcome of that game. Obviously, when you lose, it's a little bit more, but it's been so cool to see the offseason turnout and the way guys are working and coming together, and I'm excited."

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