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Warner landing on COVID list shows 49ers must be prepared

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For approximately one-third of NFL players who have been cleared off the reserve/COVID-19 list this summer, it was not too much of a problem.

Thirty-three of the 111 players who have been activated off the list spent four or fewer days unable to practice or even step inside team headquarters.

But 41 players spent 10 or more days on the list. Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Ryan Pope has spent the most time on the COVID-19 list, at 34 days and counting.

The 49ers on Monday announced starting middle linebacker Fred Warner went on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list. That announcement comes with a lot of uncertainty.

A player who goes on the list either has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person. Teams are not permitted to comment on a player’s medical status, and can not disclose whether the player tested positive.

Warner is the third 49ers player to go on the list. Wide receiver Richie James spent eight days on the list early in camp, and running back Jeff Wilson was activated off the list after five days.

League-wide, the average time spent on the list is 8 ½ days.

Warner’s appearance on the COVID-19 list could have an impact on the 49ers’ regular season with the regular-season opener just 13 days away. The 49ers are scheduled to meet the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Sept. 13, at Levi’s Stadium.

Warner was the 49ers’ best defensive player in training camp before his absence from camp on Sunday.


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The 49ers have some options to prepare for the possibility that he might not be available for the opening of the season. The 49ers’ three linebacker positions are similar, so there should not be big issues with sliding players around to different spots.

The 49ers could move Kwon Alexander to middle linebacker, where he played during his first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Dre Greenlaw returning to the weakside position. Greenlaw, like Warner, did not practice Sunday, but defensive coordinator Robert Saleh suggested it was not any type of long-term situation.

On base downs, Azeez Al-Shaair, Mark Nzeocha or Joe Walker would be the top options to start at strongside linebacker.

It had been a month since the 49ers were forced to place a player on the COVID-19 list. Just when it looked as if the organization was having no problem playing football during a pandemic, the 49ers were dealt a setback.

Warner’s situation reinforces the idea that teams this season have to be prepared at all times for the unexpected.