Fred Warner talks Brock Purdy, his devotion to football, offseason interests, and one day winning a Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner has been named to the Pro Bowl and selected to the NFL’s All-Pro team in two of the last three seasons. His consistency helped him earn a five-year, $95 million contract extension in July 2021 that included $40.5 million in guarantees to make him the league’s highest-paid inside linebacker.
In three of the last four seasons, the 26-year-old helped lead the Niners to the NFC championship game. San Francisco has lost in the semifinals in the last two seasons, including a blowout defeat to Philadelphia in January. The 49ers’ Super Bowl appearance during that span was a narrow defeat to Patrick Mahomes‘ Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.
“I’d much rather our situation be that than us not being good enough to even make it to that game,” Warner told Boardroom from Frito Lay’s Route 57 activation in Phoenix. “And the reasons why we lost in both games came down to several factors.”
In the 31-7 loss on Jan. 29, 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy tore the UCL in his throwing elbow on the team’s sixth offensive play. Quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were already out for the season, making the Eagles’ blowout a mere formality.
“If we have a healthy quarterback that whole game, it’s a different result,” Warner maintained.
The last pick in the entire 2022 draft, Purdy led the 49ers on an eight-game winning streak before his injury.
“I’ve never seen a rookie, regardless of position, regardless of what round you’re drafted, come in with the poise and the confidence that he came in with,” Warner said of Purdy. “When you come in at that position and have that type of poise and confidence with the humility to know that he can take coaching and get better every week, that’s really why you saw what he did. He’s just a baller. When he gets in between the white lines, he turns it on and he’s an animal.”
Had Purdy not gotten hurt, Warner thought he definitely would’ve started opening day next season over Lance. But with Garoppolo a free agent unlikely to return, this gives Lance, the 22-year-old third-overall pick of the 2021 draft, a chance to wrest the starting gig back from Purdy.
To become one of the top defensive players in football, Warner said he had to dedicate his entire life to doing what’s necessary to play at the highest level. That includes watching what he eats, focusing on recovery from workouts, and installing an office in his house just to watch film. When he married his wife Laura, he said she knew what she was getting into and that she’s on board with Warner doing everything in his power to become an optimal football player.
Warner philosophically said that he believes every season of his life has a purpose, but now during the offseason he’s focused on spending time with his wife and family. Following previous visits to Cabo and Bora Bora, Warner and his wife are visiting London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid.
“My family’s No. 1, and then when it’s football season, I love going into work early in the morning, staying there late at night and doing nothing but football,” Warner said.
After defeating Arizona in Week 18, Warner’s only thought was that the 49ers were going to win it all.
“That was my only goal and the only thing I was thinking about,” he said. “And I devoted everything in my power to doing that, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. It’s a team game, you can’t win it by yourself. But then you get another shot next year.”
So after an offseason of travel and family time, Warner will get back to work to try and capture his elusive Lombardi Trophy. It’s something he’s envisioned his entire life.
“I imagine it’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Warner said. “And then right after it’s over, it’s probably a pretty empty feeling because you have to go start all over to try and do it again. But that’s the dream, you know?”
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