49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw went through whirlwind of NFL debut

49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw went through whirlwind of NFL debut

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw was thrilled to play in his NFL debut during the 49ers' 31-17 victory in Tampa, but quickly had to lock in as things didn’t go exactly as planned. 

Greenlaw got quite a few snaps with the ones during training camp, as the team eased veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander back into the fold safely with his surgically repaired ACL. What Greenlaw hadn’t planned on was playing 56 of the defense’s 69 plays in his first NFL game. 

Late in the first quarter, Alexander was ejected from the game after being flagged for a personal foul for lowering his head when tackling Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. Greenlaw immediately went to work as the WILL/weak-side linebacker. 

“Nothing like I imagined,” Greenlaw said. “I mean it was everything and more. Just the first time being out there, I definitely did not expect to play as much as I did, but coach always tells us to be ready. 

“So when Kwon went down, it was my time to step in and focus on doing my job and doing my assignment.” 

While Greenlaw didn’t have a perfect game, coach Kyle Shanahan was pleased with the rookie adjusting to the situation at hand. 

“I think Greenlaw did some good things,” Shanahan said. “He’s definitely a good tackler, he’s not afraid to hit you. It was good for him to get that experience and to come away with a win.

“Once we lost Kwon, it was a chain reaction to everybody, so he had to step it up. He had to play a lot. Had a few rookie mistakes like they all do, but he played good enough for us to win and I was happy with him. Now, we need to get better going forward.”

Greenlaw explained that while he played the WILL linebacker position in college, he had been practicing predominantly at the SAM/strong-side position. Thankfully for the rookie, it all came back to him after a few plays. 

“I was playing SAM all week so I wasn’t expecting to play much WILL,” Greenlaw said. “It just so happened that it happened, and I had to go in there at WILL. Had me thinking a little bit but just had to go in there. I knew what I was doing and got the job done. 

“That’s the place that I’m the most comfortable at. I was already prepared. I knew what I had to do. Just had to go out there and do my job and execute.” 

When Greenlaw was asked about the four turnovers generated by the defense, his eyes widened and his excitement seemed to grow even more. 

“It’s big time,” Greenlaw said. “We have some great players on defense, all around. We have some things to correct, but I think we did a really good job standing our ground when we had to. We had some players make great plays and I’m just proud to be a part of a defense that did something.” 

[RELATED: Ford happy with 49ers' win, but expects more from D-line]

Greenlaw will see a reduced snap count with Alexander’s return to the lineup in San Francisco's Week 2 match up with Cincinnati, but the rookie’s first game is something he obviously will always remember. 

“It was a crazy experience and just the feeling of being out there and getting that win and sharing it with my teammates is unreal.” 

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson interested in Antonio Brown as teammate

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson interested in Antonio Brown as teammate

Around and around we go.

Almost any other wide receiver who burned as many bridges as Antonio Brown has over the last two years would never draw interest from another NFL team ever again. But due to his tantalizing talent and prolific production, he continues to get the benefit of the doubt.

He doesn't deserve it, but it's understandable. Forget receivers, when Brown is on the field, there are few offensive players more frightening for defensive coordinators. Of course, he also has proven himself to be a nightmare for his own coaches. Thus is the risk/reward factor he presents.

Despite his risk far outweighing the reward as of late, interest in Brown doesn't appear to be waning. 

Back in May, it was reported that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "would love" to add Brown to his receiving corps. A little more than a month later, the two were connecting on routes on a practice field.

Yes, that is a Raiders helmet that Brown is wearing. How'd his time in Oakland go, again? But I digress...

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Wilson doesn't appear to be the only star quarterback interested in adding Brown to his roster. After former NFL receiver Chad Johnson took to Twitter to express his preference for Brown to join the Texans, Houston QB Deshaun Watson didn't exactly pour cold water on the idea.

The Texans were on the wrong end of one of the more one-sided trades in recent memory this offseason when they questionably sent standout receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Houston did acquire Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams, but perhaps Watson believes his receiving corps is missing an ingredient.

[RELATED: 49ers don't need Brown to be favorites, but Seahawks might]

If Brown is signed -- which is a big if -- it's unlikely he would be able to play much at all this coming season, regardless of which team signed him. A trio of Personal Conduct Policy investigations must be concluded before he can sign with a team, and even if all that is settled, it is widely expected that he would be facing a lengthy suspension upon rejoining the league.

Do you trust Brown to behave through that entire process? At this point, it's difficult to understand why anyone would. But clearly, some players still feel the risk is worth the reward.

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

The 49ers ran through the NFC playoffs, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and arguably have improved this offseason. So, they've got to be the favorites in their own division, right?

It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to take that stance, as San Francisco currently is the betting favorite to emerge not just from the NFC West, but the conference as a whole. There's a reason for that, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon doesn't disagree.

"You'd have to go with San Francisco right now," Moon said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show when asked which team is the favorite in the NFC West. "I mean, they're the defending NFC champs. They bring back pretty much everybody from that football team. 

"They've lost a couple of receivers, but I still think they have a lot of good talent on their team. Their strength is going to be in their running game. I think their offensive line just got strengthened by signing (Trent Williams). So, they're going to be the team to beat, but this is going to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL.

"You've got Seattle, who's going to be right there. ... And then you always have the Rams, who you just don't know how good they're going to be. And then Arizona is going to be much more improved. So this is going to be a very, very competitive division, as it usually is."

[RELATED: Report: 49ers' Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

The 49ers might be the deserved favorites in the division, but Moon is correct. The NFC West was tough enough last year, when San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks and went down to the wire in both meetings with the Cardinals. As good as the 49ers are, claiming a second straight division title will be no easy task.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]