Moving

Buckner eagerly anticipates return to San Francisco

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – DeForest Buckner is preparing for Sunday’s game like every week.

The Indianapolis Colts Defensive Tackle Studies Tape focuses on running the game plan, making sure he’s in tip-top shape, and doing everything possible to help his teammates get back into the playoff chase.

Still, he admits that this one feels different.

Buckner spent his first four professional seasons with the 49ers, then was traded to Indy in the prime of his career, a move that forced him to leave his heart in San Francisco as he pursued his career. He goes back for the first time on Sunday.

“I definitely don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m out on the field,” he said on Wednesday. “I’ll probably have a mix of emotions. That’s where I started my family and I’m starting to play this game at the highest level. I put my heart and soul into it for four years, so it’s going to be interesting. “

The deal came as a surprise to NFL circles.

Teams typically covet Pro Bowl-caliber defensive linemen in their 20s, especially internal linemen that are as disruptive as Buckner. But given the possibility of losing Buckner in the free agency, a wage cap situation that would have made it difficult for the 49ers to keep the 6 foot 7, 295 pound Hawaiian and a depth map full of talent, San Francisco sent Buckner for 2020 a first-round draft pick to Indy.

Colt’s general manager Chris Ballard wasted no time presenting Buckner with a four-year contract valued at $ 84 million – a price the 49ers could not afford – and immediately made him the anchor of Indy’s line of defense.

“It doesn’t actually happen, but it’s the nature of business,” Buckner said, referring to trading. “That’s what we signed up for, didn’t we?”

Buckner certainly kept his end of the deal. He is one of three NFL defensive tackles with seven or more bags each in the past three seasons. Since joining the league in 2016, he has had a league-high 348 tackles among internal linemen.

This season, a healthy Buckner made no secret who he expected would play even better – perhaps good enough to be named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Statistically, Buckner is once again one of the best in the league. He is fifth among the defensive tackles with 28 stops and has two sacks.

However, to achieve his goal, Buckner knows that it will require better performance from himself and his teammates.

“It doesn’t just take one unit, it takes the whole unit, and as a unit we can definitely overtake the passer-by much better,” he said, straying from the field, a couple of guys had great rushes, but we just couldn’t hold him back. “”

And while studying game tapes this week, Buckner admits that strategizing against former teammates like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and right guard Laken Tomlinson is a little strange. They were there for Buckner’s last game against San Francisco – a 31-20 Super Bowl loss to Kansas City.

Buckner joined the Colts a few weeks later. Buckner admits he saw the Super Bowl several times and thought about what could have been.

But as the reunion weekend approaches, Buckner wants to do his business against his former team while enjoying the short time he will meet some old friends.

“It’s a little more personal if you want to say that,” Buckner said with a chuckle. “It was a little quiet this week. I’ll see them on game day and then maybe catch up with them after the game. “

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