San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner spoke to the media Friday afternoon to discuss Joe Staley, DeForest Buckner, and where he can improve on as a player heading into 2020. Here is Warner on replacing Buckner:
“Buck, he was everything you would want in a teammate, in a player. He did everything right. He led by example every day, came to work. He’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in practice, and it showed up on game day, obviously, for everybody to see throughout his career. We’ll miss him a lot. There’s some big shoes to fill, obviously. We drafted Javon [Kinlaw] in the first round to try and ease that transition, but it’s going to be tough without Buck. That’s a very, very talented D-line group that we have, and I still have full confidence in those guys.”
Warner said he would hold himself and the rest of the defense accountable when asked who will replace Buckner’s leadership. Warner also talked about his relationship with Staley, who he said was constantly a goofball and would keep “things light” in the locker room. Warner lit up and was smiling as he was talking about Staley. He also said Joe would pull him aside after practice a few times:
“There were a few conversations that me and him had—we didn’t have a lot—but there was a couple where he pulled me aside and told me how much he respects my game and sees a lot of potential in me to be one of the greats; comparing me to Pat [Willis], and playing with Patrick, seeing some of the similarities. So that meant a lot to me, honestly. We’ll miss Joe a lot. I respect Joe so much. I mean, just the pro he is, the teammate he was. Obviously, he was a goofball and liked to keep it light. But at the end of the day, he came to work, and he played at a high level.”
Staley coached up Nick Bosa during training camp, and Warner here and there, there has to be a future for him, right? When a veteran, the caliber of Staley tells a young up and comer like Warner that he has a chance to be one of the greats, it drives guys like Warner to get to that level. Staley likely doesn’t realize a brief conversation with Warner would have that much of an impact, but Warner didn’t forget.
Warne was asked about the Super Bowl and said he “put a lot of the onus on the defense.” Warner said if the 49ers had been able to get a stop in the fourth, they would have won the game.” It’s never as simple as that, but I respect the defense taking ownership. Warner believes the linebacking corps will be even stronger next year, as will his tackling:
“I think we’re just able to communicate a lot more effectively. Last year, (at) this time, it was a completely new group. Kwon was coming in from the Bucs. Dre was a rookie. I think us having a year together is going to be huge for us. Everything is going to move along a lot smoother, being able to play a lot faster and make more plays at the end of the day.
For myself, there were a couple of plays I could’ve made in that game to maybe help us a little more. A big thing I’m working on this offseason is taking better angles to the football. I left a lot of plays out on the field, in terms of tackling, this past season. I’m just kind of working on that and capitalizing on plays that I missed last season.”
It’s refreshing to hear players admit that they have room for improvement. Linebackers are going to miss tackles. That’s football. You can clean up, and coach Warner’s tackling. You can’t coach what he can do in coverage.