Christian McCaffrey says 49ers trade ‘the best thing that ever happened to me’

May 17, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: 8:12 am

Pro Bowl Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after beating the Seattle Seahaw...

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 15: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after beating the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on December 15, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Christian McCaffrey was initially upset when the Carolina Panthers dealt him to San Francisco last season. But after almost eight months with the organization, he has changed his tune completely on what transpired.

“In hindsight, I firmly believe it’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” McCaffrey said at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series event last week, via Mercury News’ Cam Inman.

The San Francisco 49ers running back has many ties to the Bay Area, including a three-year stint at Stanford before becoming the No.8 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. His strongest connection, however, is with his Dad, Ed McCaffrey.

Ed played for the Red & Gold for one year, before joining Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike, in Denver on the Broncos. Growing up in a football-first family, Christian uses his father’s wisdom and advice to help guide his own journey in the league. And while he’s one of the star players on offense, he knows there’s no “I” in team in football.

“It takes everybody,” McCaffrey said ahead of his seventh NFL season. “This is the biggest team game in the world that gets so much individual attention.

“You’ve got guys named the G.O.A.T., and this and that. It’s true and it’s great. But no one is anybody without their teammates in this game. That’s what makes it so special. That’s why people watch. That’s why we love to play it.

“All those game-defining moments, that starts now.”

Despite playing 14 game with the 49ers in 2o22, Christian McCaffrey is taking a “start from scratch” approach into the 2023 offseason. The team began phase one of voluntary workouts last month, with OTAs around the corner at the end of May. CMC’s work ethic and willingness to be a leader are just two reasons the 49ers have enjoyed having him on the roster the last 8 months.

“It makes it easier, it calms your mind a little bit. You don’t have to make as much stuff up,” Kyle Shanahan said last week. “Everyone is, ‘Oh you got him now. How creative are you going to be?’ It’s like, um, you don’t have to be as creative.”

All jokes aside, McCaffrey provides a unique quality for a running back, able play as a slot wide reciter as well. The Stanford alum finished with 1880 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns last season, the most since 2019. A five-tool athlete out of the backfield, Shanahan will continue to use him in a variety of ways, alleviating the pressure on the team’s other star players.

“It just spaces everything out,” Shanahan stated. “He really makes it easier to get the ball to get to [George] Kittle, to Deebo [Samuel], to [Brandon] Aiyuk, to Jauan [Jennings]. As a play caller, I’m not as stressed, because you just let it happen. I don’t care what [the defenses] do, you guys pick your poison, go ahead and double him.”

Few coaches know this better than new 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Wilks became the interim coach for Carolina after Matt Rule was dismissed midseason by the front office. A part of the trade discussions with general manager Scott Fitterer, Wilks revealed it was a tough pill to swallow losing CMC, but that he’s happy to be on the same side as him once again.

“It was disappointing to lose Christian last year, but he has definitely made a difference here with the 49ers and I’m glad to be able to be a part of that now,” Steve Wilks said last Friday to the media.

The 49ers have added more Panthers alum this offseason, with quarterback Sam Darnold joining the team on a one-year deal.

Finally on a team that regularly competes for a deep playoff run, CMC is feeling the love from the Bay Area. Surrounded by pro bowlers and hall-of-famers at every turn, McCaffrey understands the lore of the 49ers’ organization, soaking it all in with each day on the field.

“I say this with the utmost respect, this is a family,” Christian McCaffrey said. “It’s the first time I felt like, even alumni, just getting to know these guys, it’s special, it’s different, and there’s a reason it’s sustainable and has been for so long.”


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