In just his second season in the NFL, Fred Warner has garnered much attention and respect from around the league. Last month, Warner landed in the final spot on ESPN's Top 10 linebackers heading into the 2020 season, comprised of votes from over 50 executives, coaches, scouts and players. More recently, he was one of five members of the 49ers to be revealed on the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2020 – a countdown of the top talent in the NFL, determined solely by the players themselves – landing at No. 70 on this year's list.
Warner has continued to improve in coverage over the last two seasons. He led the team with 118 total tackles (89 solo) and registered three sacks, three forced fumbles, nine passes defended and an interception for a 46-yard touchdown. He also added an interception against Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV. His 78.5 coverage grade ranks 10th among qualifying linebackers, and his nine forced incompletions on 86 targets (including the playoffs) are the fourth-most of any linebacker in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Already establishing himself among the league's elite talent, the former third-round pick isn't marveling at the recognition just yet. He has his eyes set on bigger sights in 2020.
"I wouldn't say I was surprised at all," Warner said. "I felt like I competed at a high-level last year. I think my peers, they saw that. It probably wasn't reflected as much in the awards last year when it came to All-Pro and those types of things. But obviously, we got to the Super Bowl and that's all I care about. And continuing to become the best player I can be for this team so that we can make it back to that game and make sure the outcome is how we want it."
Revenge is, has been, and is likely to continue to be the common thread surrounding the 49ers this offseason. That, and doing so while overcoming the hurdles of effectively undergoing an NFL season. This offseason has been unique for everybody – players, coaches and fans included. For players in particular, they are required to adapt to a complete offseason's worth of training and instruction, dwindled down into five weeks of gradual integration into full speed NFL games.
Instead of OTAs and minicamp, teams were limited to virtual instruction through video conferencing while training for the season through remote workouts. To compensate for the loss of in-person instruction, the league announced the elimination of preseason games this year, allowing teams the opportunity to devote time to an acclimation period prior to ramp-up sessions.
Teammate Richard Sherman alluded to the 49ers "uniquely constructed" roster to aid in overcoming the limitations of the season. Warner agrees, believing the 49ers are well built to handle the unusual circumstances.
"I think Rich hit it on the head with that one," Warner said. "I think it is about adapting. I think we have one of the best locker rooms, one of the best groups of men in the whole NFL in our building. I feel like everybody understands the situation and is willing to make the sacrifices needed. You've got to adapt.
"I think we're ready for the challenge and we're going to do what we need to do."