Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Remember last year when Joe Staley named former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith as the strongest defensive lineman he’s ever faced?
But was he the toughest to block overall? Maybe not.
Staley battled countless defensive linemen over his 13 NFL seasons before announcing his retirement last weekend. That’s a large sample size of opponents. He joined 95.7 The Game on Wednesday and was asked which player stands out as the toughest to block over his illustrious career.
“The toughest guy to block, for me, throughout my career? DeMarcus Ware was always a challenge going up against him in a game situation,” Staley told Damon Bruce and Ray Ratto. “I never felt like I came out of the game with positive thoughts about my play. He was just a really hard player to play against, prepare for. He was so unique in everything that he did with power, and speed, and the length, and the technique that he used. I mean, he was just unbelievable.”
Staley said he will always remember going against Michael Strahan, who he watched during his youth. Staley had a chance to face Strahan during the offensive tackle’s rookie season in 2007, and Strahan’s last before retiring.
“He taught me a ton because I got my butt kicked in that game,” Staley shared. “He taught me a ton about how to prepare, and not get psyched out by an opponent. It really helped me a ton going forward in my career.”
Then Staley mentioned the “Smith brothers,” teammates Justin and Aldon.
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“It was just unbelievable getting to practice against them,” Smith said. “They made me an immensely better football player just because you had to be on it all the time or you’re going to get exposed in practice.”
Another more recent teammate came to mind, too.
“And then Nick (Bosa), last year, just in that one training camp I had with him,” Smith added. “I just realized how special he was, and how talented of a football player he’s going to be.”
In February, Bosa ended up being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a big reason why the 49ers pass rush was much-improved last season.
You can listen to the entire conversation with Staley below.