49ers

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

BRADENTON, Fla. — For the second time in as many months, a member of the 49ers has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Linebacker Fred Warner took home the title for November after Nick Bosa had the honor for October. During the month, Warner tallied 44 total tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. 

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes altering the linebacker’s responsibilities has given Warner an opportunity to play with more speed. 

“We’ve taken a lot off his plate so he can just go line up and play,” Saleh said Thursday. “Putting more of the onus on making sure that guys lineup and go play. We were playing some of those read-option teams, the Arizona teams, we’re asking him to make a lot of checks and see if he can get us in the perfect defense. 

“While he’s busy trying to do that, he’s not able to focus on his job. Even though he was getting everyone lined up and everything was perfect, it’s just not fair for him. So, to take a little bit off his plate so he can go ahead and go play, I think that’s really been the difference.”

Saleh is not alone in praising Warner. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman also has been impressed with the young linebacker's work ethic and growth in his second season. The fact that Warner didn’t play inside until he was with the 49ers makes his accomplishments even more significant. 

“The inside linebacker already has so much on his plate,” Sherman said. “Being able to take some of that off—there was one game I think he had six calls in one play. Where if this guy moves here, he has to readjust the line. He has to tell the DBs this, he has to tell this guy this and sometimes that just doesn’t allow him to play fast.

“He’s getting everybody else lined up to play fast but he can’t play fast. He has to think about all these calls, all these adjustments. Maybe you put a little more strain on the rest of the guys. You spread out the strain and it allows him to play fast and for us to be a better defense.”

[RELATED: 49ers now have logjam at running back with Breida's return]

Now in his second year, Warner sees things developing on the field more quickly. No matter the workload given to him by Saleh, the BYU product has been able to adjust.  

“I think as the year has gone on, he has kind of started to realize what’s too much, what’s too little,” Warner said. “I agree completely. Ever since kind of the midway point of the season, I think he has lined it up for me to just go out and play fast.”  

Aaron Rodgers shades Drew Brees, says NFL protests 'NEVER' about flag

Aaron Rodgers shades Drew Brees, says NFL protests 'NEVER' about flag

Hours after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he considered players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans "disrespecting the flag," a superstar peer not-so-subtly pushed back.

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers shared a picture of him and his teammates locking arms before a 2017 game, writing in an Instagram post on Wednesday that such demonstrations have "NEVER been about an anthem or a flag."

"Not then. Not now," Rodgers wrote. "Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."

Yahoo Finance asked Brees earlier Wednesday if he would support players kneeling in protest during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" this season, as demonstrators around the world protest police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who was unarmed, dying in Minneapolis police custody last Monday. Brees, echoing comments he made four years ago when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat then kneeled during the national anthem before games, said he "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country."

Rodgers did not directly mention Brees, but the Saints signal-caller faced widespread rebuke Wednesday.

Star 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman called Brees "beyond lost." Michael Thomas, the Saints' best receiver and Brees' top target, didn't mention Brees by name on Twitter, but it was clear who he was referring to in a pair of tweets.

Malcolm Jenkins, who previously raised a fist during the national anthem, co-founded the Players Coalition in 2017 and signed with the Saints this offseason, said Brees is "part of the problem" with his "hurtful" and "insensitive" comments.

Just eight of the NFL's 32 starting quarterbacks are African American. After Carson Wentz, Ryan Tannehill and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow spoke up following Floyd's death, Sherman said it was important for white QBs to speak out against police brutality and institutional racism because their voices "carry different weight than the black voices for some people." Just before Brees spoke, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he would stop "sticking to sports."

[RELATED: Poole writes Brees revealed he's part of problem, not solution]

A day before his comments about the flag, Brees posted a black square on his Instagram page as part of #BlackoutTuesday. The social-media campaign was initially intended for members of the music industry to "disconnect from work and reconnect with our community" but later spread to celebrities, influencers and everyday users intending to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Scores of users initially posted with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, obscuring posts that #BlackoutTuesday participants hoped to elevate.

Brees used the proper hashtag Tuesday, but his understanding of his protesting peers' goals is now in question.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Richard Sherman speaks from experience in revealing police problem

49ers' Richard Sherman speaks from experience in revealing police problem

George Floyd's tragic death in Minneapolis police custody has rocked the nation, and while the human spectrum present at the countless protests across the country and world at large does point to some progress in racial equality, the catalyst that sparked them is a reminder that there still is so far to go.

That's why Colin Kaepernick kneeled. And the fact that people still don't understand why he did and still don't understand the message behind "Black Lives Matter" are reasons why more progress hasn't been made.

"I think that's the frustrating part," 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said Wednesday on "NFL Total Access." "The people that the message is trying to get through to are unwilling to accept the message. And when you're combative and defensive about something you don't even fully understand, there can't be progress. So, whenever somebody says, 'Hey, this black man got killed on national TV in front of the world,' there should be a sense of anger from everybody, regardless of race, because it was just wrong."

Sherman's remarks came as part of a discussion in which he and former NFL defensive end Chris Long offered their thoughts on how players can use their platforms to fight racism in their communities. He spoke from his own personal experience in explaining the enormity of the issue at hand, and pointed to the disparity in how Floyd was treated by the police as compared to white mass murderers, such as Dylann Roof.

"As somebody who was born in Watts, California and raised in Compton and seen some terrible things, you understand that it's not always on camera," Sherman said. "It's not always on camera; It's just these few incidents you guys have caught on camera. There are hundreds of thousands of incidents you don't catch on camera, thousands of innocent men sitting in jail cells because it's word of mouth that has put them there. 'Hey, this person said they did this. There's not a lot of evidence, but hey, they're black. We assume they did it.' And so that's where people are getting frustrated and this has become the tipping point ... 

" ... for three officers to be on top of [Floyd], one officer on the side watching, and there's also video evidence of them kind of roughing him up in the car, like, that's not okay. And it wouldn't have been okay for them to do it to mass murderers who were white who came in and shot up innocent people. It wouldn't have been okay for them to stop them and not let them see their day in court. But the way those situations were approached is what a lot of people see problems with. Because [Floyd] wasn't a threat. 

"So if the man isn't a threat and he can't see his day in court, and two men who were actually full threats -- killed, murdered, they were real threats. They were threatening, they had guns -- and you didn't feel the fear or angst or anxiety to, 'Hey, pull a trigger. Let me shoot this guy before he shoots me,' that you do when a guy is unarmed, then that's part of the problem."

[RELATED: Sherman says Brees is 'beyond lost' with kneeling comments]

The problem Sherman describes is a complex one with many parts. But if we all do our part individually -- listening, learning, striving for change -- it can only benefit the whole.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]