As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "Sometimes a person just needs to change companies to reinvigorate their passion for the job."
' time in Denver had run its course
after nearly five and a half seasons. The 32-year-old is thrilled to have a new home after the midseason trade from the Broncos to the San Francisco 49ers pulled off Tuesday.
"It feels good [to be here]," Sanders said Wednesday, via ESPN. "Obviously, I've got a lot of love for the Broncos. I spent six years there, won a Super Bowl there and I love that organization. But to be a 49er, it's like a new energy and new environment. It reminds me of when I left the Steelers and went to the Broncos.
"I needed a change of scenery, and it feels good to have a change of scenery. And what a great locker room the 49ers have here. I'm just trying to come in and bring even more positive energy and bring another spark to this offense."
Sanders' former boss, John Elway, alluded to "issues" between the receiver and the Broncos that led to Tuesday's trade, which netted Denver third- and fourth-round picks, while sending a fifth-rounder back with the wideout.
"Me and John had a conversation in terms of the direction that I wanted to go and me expressing that," Sanders said. "He listened. And hearing that, hearing the trade rumors, I think we both decided that it was best for me to go. You know, we got two more years left -- or three more years left -- of playing football, and I'm trying to win a championship, and obviously, we've got a young locker room over there. So we both made the decision that if a trade comes about, that he would keep me posted and possibly trade me."
Going from a decaying 2-5 squad to a blossoming 6-0 team can provide its own refreshing influence, as Sanders joins a rejuvenated 49ers squad that views the receiver as a piece that could get them over the top in a competitive NFC West.
"I think it says that we're competing this year to try to get in the playoffs," head coach Kyle Shanahan said of acquiring Sanders, via NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think that's pretty obvious with where our record is at right now, but we're not even halfway through this year. I know we've got a long way to go, but this is a decision you've got to make before next Tuesday."
Right now the 49ers sit atop a division they haven't won since 2012. San Francisco has finished third or fourth in the NFC West in each of the past five seasons, never compiling a winning record over that span.
Snagging Sanders provides Shanahan a go-to veteran receiver who can get open versus man or zone, and slots some of the Niners young talent into better positions to allow them to grow without facing opponents' top coverage tactics.
And the coach plans to use him.
“He’s going to play a lot,” Shanahan said regarding the former Broncos’ role in his first game with the 49ers on Sunday, against the Panthers.
“It’s always tough for people and it takes all year for guys to get used to it, especially when you miss the foundation in the offseason,” Shanahan said regarding Sanders’ effort to learn the 49ers’ offense. “But it really helps him being with [Broncos offensive coordinator Rich] Scangarello in Denver, so a lot of it is very similar, so he’s able to kind of jump in right away and make some mistakes as it goes. But at least he was able to get in there right away and do some things where, most guys, they’d be really overwhelmed. It would take them some time. Still a huge challenge for him, but he’s definitely got as good of a head start as he could.”
Although Shanahan has said that Sanders can play all three receiver positions, Shanahan suggested that Sanders will still to one position for his debut.
Meanwhile, Sanders spent his first four seasons in Pittsburgh and the last five-plus in Denver. He knows his stay in San Francisco likely won't be that long, but the chance to win again will be atop his list of desires when the veteran hits free agency in the offseason.
"Once I become a free agent, [winning is] going to factor in a lot," Sanders said. "A lot of people don't understand. Yeah, the money's good. I've made my fair share of that. I think it's about happiness. It's about, 'Is it worth it?' ... I love playing football. I love being happy. I love playing games. I think that's going to be the ultimate deciding factor in where I go."
Until then, the focus is on Sanders helping unlock a middling 49er passing attack that sooner or later will be asked to make a big play if they're to make it deep into January.
One last note on the receiving corps here, a reminder that Marquise Goodwin
is listed as questionable for personal reasons. I'll be watching for more on that through tomorrow's late-afternoon kickoff.