49ers

Warner pep talk might have helped 49ers rookie QB Lance evolve

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Fred Warner could be one of the reasons why Trey Lance has steadily improved in practice.

The public hasn’t seen the 49ers' rookie quarterback throw a pass since Oct. 10, when Lance started in place of an injured Jimmy Garoppolo in Arizona. This Sunday, the North Dakota State product could be in position for his second NFL start, with Garoppolo having suffered a Grade 3 sprain in his throwing thumb the previous week in Tennessee.

Garoppolo didn't practice Wednesday, which indicates Lance took all first-team reps in practice.

Warner, an All-Pro linebacker who sees Lance progress every day in practice, believes the young signal-caller might have been influenced by a conversation they had several weeks ago.

"I think his confidence has continued to grow and grow," Warner said Wednesday. "I think early on in the season, working on the scout team, he was more playing things a little safer, and using his legs a lot to try to extend and to run, and didn’t want to throw an interception."

That conservative style wasn't productive for Lance’s development, since his bag of tricks already includes using his legs to escape the pocket. It also posed another problem for Warner and his defense, so he addressed it with the rookie.

"First of all, we weren't getting the work that we needed to defend balls down the field," Warner said. "That's why you saw that on game day. For his sake, I'm like, 'Listen, this is your opportunity to take chances and develop in that part of your game. Take a chance. See if you can fit the ball into tight spaces. Or, can you throw on the run and make a pass down the field?' "

 

Warner believes Lance took their conversation to heart, as he began to see another side of the quarterback starting to show itself on the practice field. Since then, Lance has won the 49ers' scout team player of the week honor multiple times while "playing" opposing QBs to help San Francisco's starting defense prepare for game days.

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49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has spoken about how those reps have helped Lance play more freely, without the pressure of being confined to a structure of plays. Still, the 21-year-old learns and operates the plays in Shanahan’s scheme.

"After that conversation was had, he started to really grow," Warner said. "You start to see these crazy plays, where he is just getting right over guys' fingertips, just tossing the ball downfield and making great plays.

"It's just a confidence thing. You grow every year, especially as a rookie, every single day doing things a little more, pushing the limits, and that is what I’ve seen out of him."

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