49ers

Ride the wave: Warner ready to lead 49ers through adversity

49ers

SANTA CLARA -- Whether it's Sunday, Monday or Thursday, Fred Warner holds the honorary title as being the heartbeat of the 49ers' defense.

Even before he began wearing the captain's C in the 2020 season and ever since then, teammates have rallied around the linebacker before games. He's their eyes and ears on the field, and the 25-year-old represents the group in the locker room and after games.

And he's ready to do exactly that for all his teammates after the 49ers' first bump in the road. It's a big one, too, with quarterback Trey Lance out for the rest of the 2022 NFL season after breaking his ankle in the first quarter of the 49ers' Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Levi's Stadium. 

"Just to keep steady," Warner said Wednesday when asked what his message is to the team. "I feel like life and football, it's all about just riding the waves. You can't get too high or too low. You never know what's gonna happen. 

"We've faced adversity in the past and we're kind of going through that right now. We lost Trey, but having [Jimmy Garoppolo] is great for us and we're gonna need him to play great for us."

Warner has seen it all in his first five years as a pro. The 49ers won only four games in 2018 when he was a rookie, but Warner opened countless eyes as a third-round draft pick who started all 16 games and recorded 124 tackles. The 49ers then went to the Super Bowl one year later with Garoppolo at QB, a season in which Warner truly solidified himself as a star by producing 118 tackles (seven for loss), three sacks, five QB hits, nine passes defensed and three forced fumbles. 

 

He earned a record-breaking contract, has been to two conference championship games with the same quarterback and has seen the franchise seemingly move on from Garoppolo as well. Now, Garoppolo is back under center and Warner has one goal. 

To make life as sweet as can be for Jimmy G and the rest of the offense. 

"On defense, it's our job to make sure the offense's job as easy as possible," Warner said. 

Without meaning to, Warner actual became viral in showcasing his leadership when Lance went down. A clip has surfaced of the linebacker reassuring Lance, while being placed on the medical cart, that his teammates will lift him up. The defensive captain lets Lance know "we got your back" multiple times before hugging him and telling him "I love you." 

"We're gonna hit adversity, it's about how we respond to it," Warner later told fellow linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair on the sidelines. "... We're gonna see adversity at some point, whether it be mid-game -- how do we respond?" 

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The 49ers responded with a 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks, with their opponent's only points coming from a blocked extra point. Through the first two weeks, the 49ers' defense ranks first in yards allowed per game (210) and passing yards allowed per game (142.5). They're second in rushing yards allowed per game (67.5), and have given up the third-most points (26). 

Riding the ups and downs, Warner has been on the 49ers' roller coaster the past few seasons, and he has felt all parts of the many waves. He'll continue doing what he always does, with the same objectives -- no matter who's listed as QB1. That means making life as easy as possible for his offense, and hell for the one he lines up against. 

Controlled chaos. That's a leader worth following in football.

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