Fred Warner is not sure how it started, but there was a point during his college years at Brigham Young University when he started studying some of the NFL’s top linebackers.
So when the 49ers were successful in free agency in their pursuit of Kwon Alexander, Warner already had a lot of knowledge about the player with whom he would be lining up alongside.
“Yeah, I was actually very familiar,” Warner said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “I’ve been a big fan of his game ever since college. I started watching tape on different guys, and he was one of the guys I watched. It's pretty funny.”
Warner, who led the 49ers with 124 tackles while starting all 16 games at middle linebacker as a rookie, said he was immediately drawn to Alexander's style because of the passion he exhibits when he plays.
“You think about the kind of defense we play, if there were two values that we pride ourselves on, it’s speed and physicality, and that’s exactly the type of player I feel like he is,” Warner said. “And, obviously, playing with that passion brought me toward spending more time watching his game.”
Shortly after Alexander finalized his four-year, $53.5 million deal with the 49ers, Warner reached out to his new teammate to let him know he excited he was to become his teammate.
“We’ve been talking ever since,” Warner said. “He’s back at the stadium rehabbing from the knee. He looks great. We watch film together and started building that chemistry a little bit.”
The 49ers' official offseason program begins April 15 in Santa Clara, but Warner and Alexander have been working out at the team's facility. Alexander is rehabilitation from a torn ACL that cut short his final season with the Buccaneers.
Alexander was the middle linebacker during his four seasons with Tampa Bay and called the team’s signals. Warner held that responsibility with the 49ers last season. Alexander and Warner both say it’s not important who takes on the responsibility of wearing the helmet equipped with the radio transmitter to relay the play calls from defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to the rest of the huddle.
After all, Warner points out the middle linebacker position and weakside linebacker spot are interchangeable in the 49ers' scheme. The only difference is the middle linebacker calls the signals.
“At the end of the day, the coaches are going to do whatever’s best for the defense,” Warner said.