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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Adapting to 2020 challenges key to 49ers’ Super Bowl aspirations, say Sherman and Warner

Aug 6, 2020 at 9:51 AM--

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San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman sat down to speak with reporters on Tuesday. In front of him was an auditorium filled with empty seats, and a single video screen in the middle of them.

That screen featured the media, like myself (they'll let anyone in there these days), sitting comfortably in our homes, speaking to the veteran defender virtually via Zoom video conference software.

Sherman conducted the entire interview with a face covering on — just one of several precautions in place at the 49ers facility to ensure the safety of players, staff, and their families.

It's a reminder of how different the upcoming NFL season will be, a reminder of the new normal amidst a pandemic. It's an adjustment. Sherman knows that.

Sherman also knows that there will be no excuses when it comes to the 49ers chasing their Super Bowl hopes. He knows the teams that can adapt the best have the better chances of success.

"The offseason has been different, but we're pros, and we get our work in, and we've been able to prepare and stay on top of our game," Sherman said. "Obviously, it's an adjustment, and winning teams find a way to adjust the best in these situations. So, I think the team that will adapt the best will be the one holding the trophy at the end."

As NFL teams adapt to protect themselves, the league, and their loved ones amid the coronavirus pandemic, change was inevitable. It probably isn't over, though. Uncertainty will likely carry over into the season, and teams may have to adapt again on the fly. NFL players may not have seen the worst of it yet.

"I guarantee that things are going to continue to change as the season goes on," linebacker Fred Warner said on Wednesday. "The NFL learns new things, so you have to adapt to the situation. Possibly not having fans, and all these other things come into account. You've got to adapt. I think we're ready for the challenge, and we're going to do whatever we need to do."

For many players, like running back Raheem Mostert, that unpredictability meant leaving his family behind. Tough conversations amongst families across the NFL took place as players prepared to report to training camps. For Mostert, the decision was influenced not only by his wife but his one-year-old son, Gunner, and his child on the way.

"It was a very long and tough discussion with my wife," Mostert said on Wednesday. "Right now, our current situation, she's back in Cleveland with the family, my 13-month-old son, as well as we're expecting our second child at the end of September. The discussions we've had have been long and extensive, but she understands the importance of me being out here and being able to provide for the family, and all those good things."

Warner brought up the 49ers' continuity from last season to this one. He believes that will be a significant advantage for the linebacker group, which is already "hitting on all cylinders" early in training camp.

Sherman feels the experience of last season will have a similar impact on the 49ers' defensive backs.

"Last year was a pretty good year, but there are a lot of things we could have done better," Sherman said, "a lot of things we wish we could have had back, a lot of things we could have been sharper on, a lot of communication that we needed to be sharper on. Those things will be better this year.

"I think another year of continuity, another year of being in the same room, being in the same scheme, knowing each other, we'll be sharper."

Sherman used safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt as an example. The two now have a year of experience playing next to one another, whereas, in previous years, Ward was moved around between several positions.

"He finally has some continuity," Sherman said of Ward. "He has a new contract. He's going to be a free safety."

The 49ers are focused. The roster has been built by adding players who have a team-first mentality and care more about winning than deposits to their bank accounts.

"Some guys play this game and say, 'Hey, I just want to make a lot of money. I don't care about winning. I don't care about this,'" Sherman explained. "On a winning team, you can't have a lot of those players because you won't ever be successful.

"We have a lot of unselfish guys who just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win, and that's on both sides of the ball from Jimmy (Garoppolo), down to the last practice-squad guy. And on defense, it's the same way. We have a lot of unselfish guys and a lot of guys with similar mental makeup.

"The guys that they brought in, Trent (Williams) being one of them, are built the same way. A lot of the rookies that they brought in are built the same way. And when you've got a lot of guys like that, it makes you a hard team to beat because everybody is willing to do whatever it takes to win."

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