With his record-setting, five-year extension signed, sealed and delivered, 49ers linebacker Fred Warner knows the real work is about to begin.
After being 10 minutes away from Super Bowl glory in Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers entered last season intent on engineering a "Revenge Tour" that would see them land right back in the championship bout and finish the job this time. Copious amounts of injuries derailed that dream quickly last season, as the 49ers limped to a 6-10 finish.
The 49ers are set to open training camp next week and have their sights set on returning to the ranks of the NFL's elite this season. Warner, who signed a five-year extension to make him the NFL's highest-paid linebacker, is setting the tone for a team with championship or bust dreams.
"If I'm leading by example, I know that that is going to carry more weight for guys who are watching what I do in the locker room, out on the field, in the weight room -- those different things hold weight instead of just going out there and barking orders at people," Warner told reporters Thursday in a news conference to announce his extension. "I'm extremely excited to really attack this training camp head-on.
"I've been telling the guys that you've got to prepare your mind for this to be the hardest training camp you've ever endured. Because if we really want to have the season we want, you've got to go through hell to make it to heaven. So that's what my mindset is going into it. That's why I've been preparing my body and my mind just for that."
A year ago, the 49ers locked up star tight end George Kittle to a massive extension right before training camp, and Kittle said it freed him up to play the game with "reckless abandon. Warner, likewise, is happy he can focus his full attention on leading what is expected to be one of the NFL's top defenses.
“I think I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t some pressure [to get the deal done],” Warner told reporters. “I think everyone handled the situation just flawlessly. It was a great experience, and it was something that I was hoping would be done before training camp so that I could just focus on the season and being my best self, not having to worry about all that stuff.”
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have constructed a well-rounded roster primed to compete for a Super Bowl as long as San Francisco can avoid the injury bug that bit it relentlessly in 2020.
Warner, Kittle and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the team's unquestioned leaders, all are striking the same note as the 49ers prepare for a journey they hope ends in a February confetti bath.
The 49ers have all the talent to be the last team standing. Next week, the grueling march back to the Super Bowl begins.