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George Kittle explains how Fred Warner makes him a better tight end

Aug 25, 2020 at 2:35 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle has seen a lot of growth in Fred Warner over the past two years. Kittle has already been selected to two Pro Bowls. While Warner has yet to earn that honor, Kittle already considers him a Pro Bowl-caliber defender.

The two players have been going against one another during 1-on-1 and 11-on-11 drills during training camp. That kind of competition over the years has improved both Kittle and Warner. "Iron sharpens iron," as the 49ers like to say.

"I've definitely had a lot of battles with Fred, both pass game and run game," Kittle said via Zoom on Tuesday. "Fred's the heartbeat of that defense. He's the quarterback of them. It's been really fun. He has gotten a lot better."

Kittle remembers then-rookie Warner getting "cooked" on a route he ran during OTAs in 2018. That doesn't happen anymore.

"Now, he's definitely guarding those routes," Kittle explained. "He's reacting to all those plays. You can really tell how far he's come.

"He's an incredible linebacker. He was, in my opinion, a Pro Bowl linebacker last year, and I think he's going to be better this year.

"Just being able to play against him every day makes me a better tight end. It's just really fun to have someone like that on your team."

Warner's 118 tackles (per Pro Football Reference) led 49ers defenders by a significant margin last season, and even that was a drop-off from his 124 total during his rookie year. The third-year player proved he could be a force when it comes to the pass rush, too, adding three sacks to his statistics in 2019.

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