Accountability seems to be the theme for the 49ers defense this week. On Wednesday, Jimmie Ward said the team held a defense-only meeting. We don’t know what was said at the 49ers hotel Saturday night, but the results suggest whatever was said worked.
Let’s rewind to last week when both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch called their All-Pro linebacker and newly paid superstar Fred Warner out publicly. Lynch was pretty blunt in saying that Warner is trying to do too much and that he needs to focus on doing his job.
I thought that Lynch’s comments could have stayed in-house. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your all-everything linebacker to play at an elite level and generate turnovers. However, saying he’s not doing his job on the radio comes with a negative connotation.
Fast forward a week later, and Warner not only owned up to the 49ers’ brass’s words, but he admitted that he was frustrated with his performance during the first half of the season:
“I think just the short answer is I can be better. I always look back to are you getting better or are you getting worse? And last year, I was playing at a high level, obviously All-Pro, Pro Bowl. Am I doing that right this second? I wouldn’t say so. I’d say we have eight games left that I can prove that, that I can be a better player for this team and myself.”
It’s refreshing to hear a player acknowledge that he can play better. You know your standards are high when you’re having a relatively disappointing season because you don’t have any interceptions or flashy highlights.
What I didn’t expect Warner to admit was how his $95-million contract has played a factor in him pressing, despite having a more detailed approach this season. Here’s Warner’s full answer:
“I feel like it probably did. I probably did too much. It’s funny because before you get a contract — or at least I wasn’t — I’ve never worried about the money. Obviously, that’s the goal is to try and take care of your family and get that part of your career, that achievement.
But that was not any part of my thought process and anything, so going in this year, it was kind of a little piece of it in the back of my mind, like okay, well, I got to show up. I got to show out. I got to do more. I got to do this, do that and so, it probably hindered me a little, but I’m past it.
I feel like this is for sure one of the hardest things I’m going through, what I’m going through right now, but at the same time I was looking at how blessed I am to play this game.”
We rarely have the opportunity to discuss the human element of football. And to be clear, nobody feels sorry for the professional football player that’s dealing with the added pressure to “do his job” after signing a contract where he was guaranteed $27.5 million.
The 49ers paid Warner to be a playmaker. He’s aware of that. So this is Warner acknowledging the playmaker tag that comes along with his contract. With eight games remaining, there’s plenty of time left in the season for Warner to remind everyone why the 49ers made him the highest-paid linebacker of all time when he signed an extension in July.