Pro football life is coming at former BYU linebacker Fred Warner fast after he was taken in the third round of last week’s NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
He likes it that way, as the 49ers kicked off their post-draft rookie minicamp Friday.
“The combine’s great and all — jump, run a 40 and all that — but this is real football now,” Warner said in a press conference video posted online Thursday by the team.
Warner, who made a name for himself at BYU as an outside linebacker, may see time initially at inside linebacker with San Francisco.
“I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to. They talked about playing middle to start me off, and we’ll go from there,” he said.
While the majority of the league will hold their rookie minicamps next weekend, nine teams began their rookie camps this weekend. That includes the 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.
The camp gives Warner his first chance to get on the practice field and learn from his pro coaches, while earning opportunities to glean information about how he can improve. The former Cougar is already grabbing attention for his measurables — he stands 6-foot-3, 226 pounds.
“I think it just helps all-around in my game, be a rangy player and get in those passing lanes or defeat blocks and make tackles. That’s my job,” said Warner, who will wear No. 48 for the 49ers.
Warner's pass coverage skills are also noticeable, a skill not always associated with traditional middle linebackers. With the versatility he brings, Warner may be able to contribute as a rookie with San Francisco, especially with the uncertain future of current starter Reuben Foster, who is facing domestic violence charges.
“This is a passing league now, and teams are passing the ball about 65 percent of the game. You’ve got to have linebackers who can move and can cover. That’s why I feel I fit perfect into what we’re doing,” he said.
“It’s something that just came natural to me, and my coaches had a lot of trust in me to be out in space and cover guys, slot receivers, tight ends. It’s only added to my game. It’s one of the hardest things you can ask a linebacker to do.”
Throughout the draft process, his pass coverage skills prompted questions about if Warner had experience as a defensive back.
“I do not. I get asked that question a lot just because of the position I played at BYU was more like a nickelback because I was out in space a lot, and I was comfortable doing that,” he said.