49ers Star LB Placed on Reserve/COVID-19 List

Middle linebacker Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Santa Clara, California.

The San Francisco 49ers might have just taken another blow ahead of the 2020 NFL season.

The team officially announced Monday that star third-year linebacker Fred Warner had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list with less than two weeks before the 49ers’ Week 1 battle with the Arizona Cardinals.

Being placed on the list means that Warner either tested positive for the novel coronavirus, or was in close contact with someone who recently did.

The news comes after Warner, as well as fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw and rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw missed practice on Sunday, and with Warner doing minimal work at the previous practice on Friday. While Kinlaw did attend practice on Monday, Greenlaw did not.

This is the first time since July that a 49ers player has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, when receiver Richie James Jr. and running back Jeff Wilson went on the list.

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Warner’s Impact with 49ers

Over the past two seasons, Warner has had a meteoric rise in Santa Clara, California, taking on the starting middle linebacker from Week 1 of his rookie season and never looking back.

After 262 total tackles and seven interceptions over four years with BYU, Warner was selected by San Francisco with a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft as a competitor for that aforementioned starting linebacker spot.

While Warner did fairly well as a rookie but not staggeringly so, it was the embedding period for what would come in 2019, when the former Cougar exploded in his sophomore season in the NFL.

Other than total tackles(124 to 118,) Warner improved in almost every single statistical category, clocking in three forced fumbles, three sacks, a pick-six, and seven tackles for loss in what was a statement year.

Warner went on to earn another interception in the Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, all but cementing his top-notch ability as well as his preparedness to execute in high-pressure situations.

Where to go with Warner

You never want any of your players or staff to test positive for COVID-19, but in some ways, the 49ers might wish that this happened sooner rather than just 13 days before the opening game of the season.

Depending on if Warner tests negative when the team goes to check him again over the next few days, he ought to be able to return in time for the opener against Arizona.

However, if he displays symptoms and continues to test positive, the 49ers will be looking at a minimum 10-day wait from the day he first displayed symptoms and tests negative, which does make the possibility of the San Francisco LB missing Week 1 a possibility.

Considering that Warner and the 49ers are in COVID-19 hotbed in California, the team will also have to ensure that they meet local health guidelines and regulations, which could be an outside influence in terms of his return.

That being said, still, the positive is that if Warner tests negative tomorrow or within the next couple of days, it ought to be just enough time for the linebacker to return.

But until those next tests, it’s a waiting game.

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Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.