It didn't take long for Christian McCaffrey to make his mark in the NFL, but a trio of injuries questioned his reliability and longevity as a running back in the league.
So when he was traded to the 49ers last season, teammate and San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk admitted that he was surprised by McCaffrey's immediate impact.
"Yeah, I admit I didn't have the appreciation that he deserved either," Juszczyk said on the latest "Haberman & Middlekauff" podcast. "... And when he showed up, it was my first time meeting him and just seeing how he operates, how he goes through his day to day, really seeing the affect that he has being on your squad, I can't say enough. He's one of the best football players I've seen in my life. He truly can do everything. He can change the game in so many different ways. Like you said, we have all these weapons, and we already had a pretty good offense, it's like, what is bringing in a running back going to do to it? But he's so much more, he's not just a running back. He is just a true dynamic playmaker.
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"And I think that's what [49ers coach] Kyle [Shanahan] loves. He loves guy that can do a lot of differnt things. He can attack a bunch of differnt ways and Christian's just the definition of that. It's been really cool to get to know him and have him as a teammate because he's pushed me. he's showing me some things that, 'Hey Juice, try this recovery thing out,' or 'Hey when I run this route, I'm thinking about defense's leverage on this.' Diffferent things that is coming from one of the best in the game and it's great to pick his brain every day."
McCaffrey's midseason arrival in 2022 quickly and dramatically changed San Francisco's offense. The 27-year-old All-Pro RB was traded by the Carolina Panthers ahead of Week 7. Two days after landing in Santa Clara, McCaffrey was on the field as a 49er, and despite dropping that game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the 49ers didn't lose another contest until 13 weeks later in the NFC Championship Game -- thanks largely in part to his impact.
In his 11 regular-season appearances for the 49ers, McCaffrey recorded 159 carries for 746 yards and six touchdowns, along with 52 receptions for 464 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
McCaffrey’s 1,139 total yards rushing in 2022 marked his third 1,000-yard season since being drafted in 2017. He accomplished so much in a short amount of time, and there's no telling what he'll achieve in a full season with the team.
San Francisco 49ers
Juszczyk said McCaffrey's influence continues well off the field, too. While the two hadn't met until becoming teammates in Santa Clara, they have grown close fairly quickly and even sit next to each other during team meetings.
"He's a notetaker," Juszczyk said. "Stanford guy. He's really studious. He really is a student of the game."
McCaffrey fit in with the 49ers "seamlessly" and is the type of guy you "want to go to war with," Juszczyk said, adding that all the players push each other to be the best.
As the 2023 season approaches, Juszczyk, McCaffrey and the 49ers will hope to push each other to one step further from where they left off last year and bring the Super Bowl LVIII trophy to the Bay.