San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Fred Warner has agreed to document his first NFL training camp and preseason. Over the course of the month, Warner has been sharing a first-person account of his experiences. Below is Warner's fifth blog entry, which covers his experience as a starter in the 49ers third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. Be sure to check out his first, second, third and fourth posts in case you've missed them!
I found out early in the week that I'd be starting against the Indianapolis Colts. Our linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans came up to me in our position meeting room to tell me I'd be running with the ones. Nothing really changed for me other than it was a cool experience spending the entire week of practice with the first-team defense.
The big difference was that I spent every practice going against the starting offense. We did a lot of "good on good" team periods, and I just made sure I was taking command of the defense. It was a great week of work. Our offense makes it tough on us, and they do a great job of getting ready for another opponent. They're so hard to go against, just because of how good Coach Shanahan is with misdirection. They'll have a stretch play on one rep. Then give us the same action on another play, but it will be a play action. Most teams don't utilize bootlegs the way we do, and so when we see those looks in a game, we're ready for them.
I went about my gameday routine same as always. I plugged into my music the second I got onto the bus and kept my headphones on all the way through individual warmups. That was encouraging to me because you never want to feel like the moment is too big for you. Coach Shanahan talks about that all the time. It was exciting to start for sure, but I couldn't let that change how I went about my business. I prepare myself every week as if I'm going to start. As long as that's the case, you should never have to change things up.
We talked all week about how the third preseason game was going to be treated the most like a regular season game. It was great to go against Andrew Luck and their starters for the entire first half. They gave us their best shot, which was awesome. We gave up one touchdown, which was one touchdown too many, but for the most part our defense played pretty well. A seasoned vet like Luck is so good at looking you off where he ultimately wants to throw the ball. That was a good challenge for me in pass coverage. The play I wanted back the most was Luck's 15-yard scramble on 3rd-and-13. I needed to stick to our "plaster rules" and stay in my hook area. Instead I tried to grab somebody in coverage in the flow of the play. That was the first time I've been a part of the scramble drill in a game, and it was a good play to learn from.
My favorite play was the second snap of the game when I tackled Jordan Wilkins for a three-yard loss. The Colts kind of gave me a lay-up. I'm not sure what the blocking scheme was supposed to be, but they left me unblocked. I slow-played it, then when I saw the play develop I shot the gap and made the tackle. It was cool for sure. I'm really hard on myself and always feel like I can play better, but it was a lot of fun.
Overall the coaches felt like we were doing enough to play OK, but we weren't playing the style of football that we know we're capable of. Especially with takeaways – I don't think we had a single takeaway the entire game. For the most part, we were assignment sound. It was a game to build off of and get better.
I had texts from my mom, my dad and some of my close friends after the game. They were excited about the tackle for loss and that I led the team in tackles. Overall it was a great experience. Now we've got a short week gearing up for the Chargers on Thursday night. I'm not sure if I'll be playing, but I can tell you that I'll be ready in case the coaches want to see me get a few more reps. To be continued...