49ers linebackers Fred Warner (54) and Dre Greenlaw (57) are vital to San Francisco's success. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Niners LBs covet spotlight roles in Super Bowl LVIII

LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw can finish each other’s sentences because of the amount of time they’ve spent together. On Sunday, the 49ers’ linebacker tandem is considered crucial to helping San Francisco finish its mission in Super Bowl LVIII.

Warner, the second-highest paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL behind Roquan Smith of the Ravens, knows his role against the Kansas City Chiefs is hyper-critical. He’s the primary defender tasked with covering Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Warner was named first-team All Pro in 2023, collecting 132 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a career-high four interceptions.

“You have to know where he’s at on every single play,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I think the best part about Fred is that he has the physical ability. He can do everything. He’s tall. He’s fast. He can blitz. He can do whatever you want him to do. But you can tell how much he studies the film, and how he’s able to adjust his coverage based (on) what team he plays. I think you have to know where he’s at on every single play. If you don’t, he will make a play happen that will be negative for us but positive for them. And so, someone you definitely have to account for.”

NFL Next Gen Stats underscores the importance of the key matchup Sunday: Kelce led all NFL tight ends during the regular season with 393 receiving yards, when a linebacker was assigned in coverage. Warner gave up a 61.9 passer rating as the nearest defender in coverage, lowest among NFL linebackers. He also intercepted Mahomes in the Super Bowl LIV matchup with Kelce catching six passes for 43 yards and one touchdown.

Warner was a third-round pick in 2018. Greenlaw was a rookie in 2019, entering the league as a fifth-round pick.

Warner said the past two seasons Greenlaw has “made the leap” and playing at a Pro Bowl level. He is often identified by his physical nature which even Warner said “toes the line” on aggression.

Greenlaw credits his bond with Warner for his rise and their collective commitment in the offseason. He said he’s working harder and appreciating every moment with more focus now that he understands how difficult it is to get back to the Super Bowl.

“Training together in the offseason, it kind of starts there. We made a commitment to stay (in Santa Clara at the team facility) in the offseason, eat together,” Greenlaw said. “It’s a natural connection on the field, understanding what he’s thinking and then knowing what the offense is trying to do. You spend all this time together just to get that one win.”

Warner and Greenlaw grasp that the same applies to Kelce and Mahomes, who’ve been together since 2017.

“When you got great chemistry with somebody, you know where they’re at all the time,” Greenlaw said of the Chiefs’ duo.

Warner said the narrative feels obvious, perhaps even overstated, but he’s not putting too much thought into any “undercard” conversation in the NFL’s main event.

“I feel like that’s going to be the narrative throughout this week, going into the Super Bowl: ‘How are the linebackers going to stop Kelce and Mahomes?’” said Warner. “At the end of the day, the way I look at it, it’s going to take everybody. They are really good. I give them my respect. I’ve seen it on tape. I’ve seen it for a long time now from them doing it, and I’ve seen it in person in the biggest game.”

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Thursday that all of the team’s injured players were able to participate in practice in a limited capacity: tight end George Kittle, defensive tackle Arik Armstead, cornerback Ambry Thomas and linebacker Oren Burks.

–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) gestures during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers LB Fred Warner (hamstring) listed as doubtful vs. Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers standout linebacker Fred Warner has a slim chance of playing in Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks despite being ruled out earlier this week by coach Kyle Shanahan.

Warner, who has a hamstring injury, was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report. He has never missed a game in his four-year career.

Warner didn’t participate in practices this week.

The 2020 Pro Bowler is just eight tackles away from reaching 100 for the fourth straight season. He has 459 in 59 career games.

As expected, star receiver Deebo Samuel will miss the game due to a groin injury he sustained in last Sunday’s 34-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Others declared out were cornerback Dre Greenlaw (groin), running back Trey Sermon (ankle) and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf).

San Francisco listed linebacker Marcell Harris (concussion) as questionable.

As for the Seahawks, guard Damien Lewis (elbow, groin) is doubtful. Lewis reportedly had a cyst removed from his groin this week.

Three running backs are questionable for Seattle: Alex Collins (abdomen), Travis Homer (calf) and Rashaad Penny (hamstring).

Seattle signed veteran Adrian Peterson earlier this week due to the shortage of ball carriers.

“He’s been a remarkable competitor forever and it was so obvious that it was really a boost for a bunch of guys, the young guys in particular,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Peterson. “He’s serious about playing. He’s not just here for show.”

Seattle (3-8) has lost six of its past seven games as it goes up against San Francisco (6-5), which has won three straight.

–Field Level Media

November 28, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) tackles San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Niners WR Deebo Samuel (groin) out 1-2 weeks

San Francisco 49ers leading receiver Deebo Samuel will miss one to two weeks with a groin strain.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan also said Monday that linebacker Fred Warner will miss this week’s game against Seattle with a hamstring injury.

Samuel left Sunday’s game in the second half against Minnesota after his groin area got tight on a running play. He finished with six rushes for 66 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a pass for 12 yards.

He leads the 49ers in catches (56) and receiving yards (1,006). He’s the first WR in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards, five receiving TDs and five rushing TDs in a season, per ESPN.

Warner will miss the first game of his career. He has 92 tackles – four for loss – and two fumble recoveries in 11 starts this season. He has played in every game in three-plus seasons in San Francisco. He made All-Pro and the Pro Bowl last season.

Shanahan also said rookie RB Trey Sermon could be headed to injured reserve with an ankle injury suffered in Sunday’s game. He would need to miss three games.

–Field Level Media