The 49ers have taken a lot of criticism this season, and the heat was turned up following their disastrous Week 9 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, who were without Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and J.J. Watt. Among those critical of the 49ers were Jerry Rice and Steve Young.
The San Francisco legends called out the 49ers for the lack of dogs in the locker room, which caught the attention of safety Jimmie Ward.
“I respect their game when they played, but at the same time, they’re not playing anymore,” Ward told KNBR's "Murph and Mac" on Wednesday. “So they’re doing what they need to do. They need to talk, and they need to grab the headlines, and that’s kind of how it goes when you hang up the cleats.
“If I’m not mistaken, they said there’s not enough dogs, I don’t think they said there’s no dogs, cause if there was no dogs, we’d lose a lot more games. It’s hard to win games when there’s no dogs on the field. I’m pretty sure they watch the film and know who the dogs are and who they are not.”
Last week, Young told KNBR that he had asked Rice what he thought was wrong with the 2021 49ers, and the Hall of Fame receiver claimed the 49ers had "no dogs." Young also called out what he viewed as some leadership issues in the locker room.
“I go, ‘What do you what do you think?,” Young said. “He goes, ‘There’s no dogs.’ And I got to interpret that. There’s no dogs on there. You watch the team go on, go off, everyone’s like, 'OK.'
"When I'm talking about a locker room, I’m talking about a leadership committee that happens naturally, it’s organic. And there are certain personalities that it’s made up of, ‘over my dead body' kind of guys -- the guys that have the grit, that have the moral authority to turn at any time as a group or individually to the rest of the 50 guys and declare the truth or the moment or something that doesn't even necessarily have to be said. Some of the groups that I played with it was just a look like, 'Hey, yeah, now.' Where I get concerned is that the locker rooms of the previous Super Bowl teams were best in the league kind of locker rooms."
Ward has no hard feelings, though. He knows Young and Rice bleed red and gold and just want to see the 2021 49ers succeed.
"They’re just trying to pull the headlines, and they’re former 49ers players, so they really rooting for us, man," Ward said. "So that’s like a message to other guys to say ‘step it up.’ I think that’s why they throwing their shots. Because I’m pretty sure when they were playing, there were guys who used to play or media, who really cared for the 49ers and were just trying to push them. They were probably saying the same thing.
“So I don’t really look at it as disrespect, I don’t really look at it as motivation. At the end of the day, I’m passionate enough about this game, I don’t need nobody telling me what I need to do or what I don’t need to do unless you’re in this building grinding with me. Then I’ll listen to you. If you’re going through what I’m going through right now, then I’ll listen to you.”
While Ward didn't take Young and Rice's criticism personally, head coach Kyle Shanahan admitted after the 49ers whopped the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night at Levi's Stadium that the noise around the team had registered in the locker room.
“I think so," Shanahan said after the win when asked if the 49ers took the criticism personally. "I think we've taken a lot this year personally, so I wouldn’t just say taking something personally is what leads to that. But we were very embarrassed about last week in every aspect, which we have been at a few things this year. I don't know if that's what leads to that, but we definitely played our best game all around.”
The 49ers got off the mat with their win over the Rams, with Ward notching two interceptions, including a pick-six in the victory. Now, the 4-5 49ers must avoid falling in a classic trap-game spot Sunday when they travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars.