Long-time starting middle linebacker Fred Warner has big expectations for the San Francisco 49ers‘ defense. And three-year captain who has started every game he’s appeared in since being drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft out of BYU, Warner has been the on-field connective tissue who has kept the defense together under Robert Saleh, DeMeco Ryans, and soon Steve Wilks, who will be leading the defense in 2023.
Speaking with reporters at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series, Warner noted that he believes the 49ers’ defense will once again be the key to their on-field success, and he’s willing to put that burden on his shoulders.
“I’ll always say defense wins championships, so it’s going to start and end with us,” Warner said via NFL.com. “We take that on our shoulders, that responsibility, and we need to be better.”
In 2022, the 49ers had the best defense in the NFL. They led the league in yards and points scored, had more interceptions than any other team at 20, and finished out the season with the fewest points allowed per drive at just 1.45. If Warner and the team can produce at the same level in 2023 under Wilks, they should once again find themselves as one of the top teams in the NFL.
Fred Warner Loves the San Francisco 49ers’ New DC
Asked by reporters back in April about the prospects of playing for Wilks in 2023, Warner expressed his elation, noting his immediate reaction to finding out the news.
“Was probably at home, jumping up and down on my bed,” Warner said via Sactown Sports. “I had no idea, they kind of kept it pretty under wraps and when it came out that’s [a huge get]. I think he was probably the top free agent on the market, regardless of position. So he’s going to make a huge impact for our defense.”
Discussing his experience under Wilks thus far, Warner noted that the transition has been seamless and the respect between the players and their new coach has been there from the jump.
“He fits right in, it’s been a seamless transition,” Warner stated. “He’s come in and he’s taken a hold of everything, and we all respect the heck out of him already. The type of guy that he is, he genuinely cares about his players. It’s important to build relationships with us. And you know, we’re starting at ground zero again, everything we’ve done in the past is behind us. It’s a new year. A new opportunity. And I think that’s what’s exciting.”
Fred Warner Is Prepared to Rebound From a Tough Loss
Elsewhere in his discussion at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series, Warner leaned into the past and touched on the “hurtful” loss the Niners suffered at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, where Brock Purdy had to effectively play half of the game with one arm.
“To say that last year’s ending was hurtful, it was,” Warner shared via 49ers WebZone. “It sucks the way that it ended. It felt like we never even had a chance to really compete in that game. But what are ways that our defense could have been better in that game? That’s what I’m looking at, is how could I have been better for our team and our defense?
“And so I think we’re for sure taking steps in the right direction right now. We’re doing the tedious work right now of going out there on the field, and in the weight room, and putting the work in because you don’t just snap your fingers and you’re back in that game. You’ve got to take each step, one step at a time. And so that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Though the 49ers’ loss to Philly was emotionally crushing, it’s good to know that Warner and company are using the loss as inspiration, instead of dwelling in the doldrums of defeat. With Wilks locked in as their new defensive coordinator and the players all behind him, it would appear the 49ers’ defense is gearing up to be a feisty as ever.