Joe Staley quietly walked away from the NFL last month, announcing on social media that he was retiring from the San Francisco 49ers after 13 seasons because “my body is telling me it’s time.”

The message his body was sending was somewhat stronger than that farewell message indicated.

“It was a bunch of stingers,” Staley said on the “Bussin’ with the Boys” podcast. “It got to the point where in the Super Bowl, I’d make contact with my head with anybody [and] I’d have — from the base of my head down to my back — I’d have just a zing and my arms would go numb. I had herniations at a bunch of different levels and really severe stenosis.”

Stenosis is a narrowing of space in the spine, and a stinger, a common occurrence in football, is a restriction of the nerves that sends a shooting pain (typically with numbness and tingling), usually down an arm. The 35-year-old left tackle went on to say that doctors painted a grim portrait of a post-football life if he continued to play.

“[The doctor] was like, ‘If you’re going to continue to play football, you’re probably going to have to have fusion surgery on multiple levels,'” Staley said. “I was like, ‘I’m 35. I’ve got kids. I don’t want to not be able to turn my neck for the rest of my life.”

He continued, “When I went and saw these doctors, I realized how serious it was. They were like, ‘If you continue to play, you’re going to really do some long-term damage.' ”

Staley made it official in an April 25 tweet, and the 49ers were clearly expecting it, given that they traded for his replacement, Trent Williams.

“Last year should have been the pinnacle of my career. We had an absolutely unbelievable team from the culture to the coaching staff, front office, the players that were around,” he said April 28. “And it was like that the whole entire year. But for me personally, it was really, really difficult because of the injuries.”

He missed six games in the 2019 season with a fractured fibula and back issues, then broke a finger and missed three more after having surgery.

“I had the broken leg, which was kind of a weird rehab for that. It wasn’t very straightforward. I had a lot of complications coming back from that,” he said. “… And then I came back and broke the finger, had to have surgery on that. … While that happened, I had a back thing, and then I’ve had neck stuff that’s been going on for a little bit, and it just kind of got worse and worse as the season went on. … It was kind of like the last two or three games it started getting progressively worse, and then in the playoffs it was really bad and then kind of culminated with the Super Bowl being the worst.”

He was left with few doubts about what he needed to do.

“I made the decision that for me, family and what my life looks like going forward, it was the right time, I guess — if there is a right time — to step away,” Staley said.

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