Fred Warner is not having the “All-Pro Fred” season he had last year.
This is not to say that Warner has played poorly, but it is clear that his presence — in making the middle of the field off limits, and ranging from sideline to sideline on nearly every play — is not what it was in the 2020 season which cemented the top-of-his-position contract he was rewarded with in the offseason.
The front office gave Warner that five-year, $95 million extension, and so far, Warner said he hasn’t played up to it.
When general manager John Lynch said that on KNBR last week, he was met with criticism for airing out what some people felt like should have been a personal discussion with Warner. While he likely discussed this issues with Warner before going on the air, some fans felt like his reference of Warner playing poorly due to his contract was not something that needed to be shared.
Make of that what you will, but on Wednesday, Warner echoed Lynch’s sentiments, affirming that his new contract did affect his play.
He and his former linebackers coach turned defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans mentioned last week that he needs to get back to not trying to do too much.
Warner said firstly that he’s not playing at an All-Pro or Pro Bowl level this season. For context, Pro Football Focus gave Warner an 88.6 grade last season, first in the NFL among linebackers. This year, he’s received a 70.2 grade, 13th in the NFL.
“I think just the short answer is I can be better,” Warner said. “I always look back to are you getting better or are you getting worse? And last year, I was playing at at a high level, obviously All-Pro, Pro Bowl. Am I doing that right this second? I wouldn’t say so. I’d say we have eight games left that I can prove that, that I can I can be a better player for this team and myself.”
He admitted that the contract was a significant factor in that regression, saying that he felt like even though he’s been more detailed this season, he was pressing, especially at the beginning of the year, because of the new expectations he felt like he had to fulfill.
“I feel like it probably did. I probably did too much,” Warners said. “It’s funny because before you get a contract — or at least I wasn’t — I’ve never worried about the money. Obviously that’s the goal is to try and take care of your family and get that part of your career, that achievement. But that was not any any part of my thought process and anything, so going in this year, it was kind of a little piece of it in the back of my mind, like okay, well, I got to show up. I got to show out. I got to do more. I got to do this, do that and so, it probably hindered me a little, but I’m past it.
“I feel like this is for sure one of the hardest things I’m going through, what I’m going through right now, but at the same time I was I was look at how blessed I am to play this game.”