Who Warner credits for rise as linebacker, 49ers' leader


Fred Warner quickly has turned into one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and more importantly for the 49ers, the leader of their defense. 

Warner began calling the defense towards the end of his rookie year in 2018. It was a huge transition for a former third-round draft pick who never called the defense over his four years at BYU. Now in Year 3, he has a full grasp of Robert Saleh's defense as he wears the green dot on the field.

"It's so easy now with the fact that I'm so comfortable with the system and know what I know now that it's easy to forget how hard at the start it really was," Warner said Wednesday on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" show. "I didn't play stack backer at BYU, I didn't give any calls or anything like that. So being thrusted in there and playing MIKE early on as the starter, there were for sure bumps in the road.

"I for sure wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for amazing coaches. DeMeco Ryans, who played in this league and played at a high level -- he's such an amazing coach and he's been there for me through it all. And having a defensive coordinator like Robert Saleh, who is one of the smartest minds there is and he's had complete trust in me since Day 1." 

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Ryans, 36, joined the 49ers in 2017 as a quality control coach and was promoted to inside linebackers coach the next year during Warner's rookie season. Ryan played 10 years as a middle linebacker between the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles, was named the 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year and twice made the Pro Bowl. He also clearly has made a huge impact on Warner's young career.

Warner totaled 242 tackles through his first two seasons, with four forced fumbles, 15 passes defensed and one interception. He's the perfect version of a modern inside linebacker, one who can go sideline to sideline as a tackler and can cover both running backs and tight ends. 

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This season, Warner leads the 49ers in tackles with 28. The next closest is Emmanuel Moseley with 18. Warner also is tied for the team lead in passes defensed with two and recorded his first interception of the year in San Francisco's Week 3 win over the New York Giants.

There's no doubt Warner has exceeded expectations as the No. 70 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Early into his third year as a pro, he has become a star and has two coaches to credit his success.