Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY

Quotebook: New 49ers LB Oren Burks on his special teams prowess, rapport with George Kittle and Fred Warner

Mar 17, 2022 at 12:50 PM--

Linebacker Oren Burks met with 49ers beat reporters for the first time Thursday, not long after signing with the team on a two-year, $5 million free agent deal.

Burks covered a number of topics in his introductory press conference, including what he expects his role to be with the 49ers and his familiarity with two of the team's top players in linebacker Fred Warner and tight end George Kittle. Burks also dove into what he's looking forward to about the Bay Area and what he's heard about 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

Here's a rundown of what Burks said to reporters on Thursday.

Burks chose the 49ers over a return to the Packers

After playing the first four seasons of his career in Green Bay, Burks chose to move his career in a different direction even though the Packers tried to keep him around. Burks made it a point to thank the Packers during his press conference but said he and his family decided the time was right to make a move.

"First of all, I just want to give a huge thanks to Green Bay," Burks said. "The organization is top-tier. I really enjoyed my time there because I was drafted there in 2018. I can't say enough about coach [Matt] LaFleur, the whole staff. But I'm excited for this new opportunity. They definitely wanted me back, and it was something I kind of had to talk over with my family and make the best decision for me. I landed here [with] the 49ers, and I'm excited to get to work with this staff."

Expect a special teams presence from Burks

Burks wasn't able to move into the lineup on defense on a full-time basis in Green Bay, but he did make a name for himself on special teams. When asked what his role would be with the 49ers, Burks singled out special teams first before mentioning the possibility of helping out at linebacker.

"Definitely special teams," Burks said. "For my career, that's been something I can hang my hat on. I've kind of gotten some notice around the league for that. So definitely being a leader on special teams and competing to play linebacker and add value to the team wherever they feel fit. I'm a big team first guy, and I'm pretty consistent with effort and just the type of guy I am in the locker room. I'm excited for the opportunity to know a different group of guys and get to work."

The Packers struggled on special teams last season, which was demonstrated in abundance during their Divisional Playoff loss to the 49ers. Burks seems to have put that loss behind him now that he's with the 49ers, but he'll continue to carry the lessons learned from the special teams shortcomings in that game.

"It's not the (first) thing that you think about but it's so important in terms of field position, how the game momentum changes," Burks said. "I've always been really passionate about how that impacts the game, so I want to make my value really, really, really high on special teams. It was a tough way to lose in Green Bay, but I'm on the other side of things now. I'm excited to add value to this organization here."

RELATED 5 things to know about new 49ers LB Oren Burks

A Warner-Kittle connection

It doesn't seem like Burks will have much of a problem fitting in with his new team due to the fact he already knows linebacker Fred Warner and tight end George Kittle. Burks and Warner were both third-round selections in the 2018 NFL Draft and met each other during the pre-draft process.

"We were in the same draft class, so we went through the Senior Bowl, combine, all those good things, so we kind of connected there," Burks said. "I actually just ran into him a couple minutes ago. I'm excited to get to work with him. He's a great dude. He's been a leader on this team on defense his whole career honestly, and I'm just excited to play next to him."

As for Kittle, he and Burks are two of several NFL players who work out in Nashville over the offseason. Burks, who went to college in Nashville at Vanderbilt, uses the same strength and conditioning coaches as Kittle and other players such as Packers tight end Robert Tonyan and Seahawks safety Ugo Amadi.

"We've been training together for probably two, three years," Burks said of Kittle. "It's just a really good group of guys. We use the same strength (coach). His name is Josh Cuthbert. He does an amazing job getting us ready for the season. We have guys from around the league that come in and work out with us, and we do speed with Jeremy Holt as well. So there's a lot of similarities. All the NFL guys kind of run in the same circle in Nashville. That's kind of how that came to be."

Working with Ryans

Burks is understandably excited about teaming up with defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who is a former NFL linebacker. Burks says he has familiarity with the defensive scheme after facing the 49ers multiple times during his years in Green Bay and is anticipating a positive experience from Ryans.

"I've heard nothing but great things about DeMeco," Burks said. "I know he's a linebacker guy, so I know he's going to be a great communicator in terms of what I need as a linebacker coming in. The players really rally around him. It's a great defense, and I'm excited to get to work."

Looking forward to family and food in the Bay Area

In addition to the opportunity to play for the 49ers, Burks has a number of reasons to be excited about living in the Bay Area. He'll be reuniting with his sister Whitney, who is a Stanford alum, and he's also anticipating the chance to see what the Bay Area has to offer in terms of his favorite food.

"I'm a big seafood guy," Burks said. "I grew up right outside of D.C. and that's one thing I've been looking forward to. And just a different city, different vibe. I have family here. My sister lives in Palo Alto, so it'll be nice to be close to her. Just a number of things and just a change of scenery for me and my family."

Location was one of three factors Burks cited as what made him choose the 49ers.

"I was just kind of looking for a good fit, a great city, and a great organization," Burks said. "It felt like the Niners fit all three of those things, and I'm excited to get to work."

Community work

Burks has been active in the community since his youth days, so it's no surprise he plans to establish a presence off the field in his new city.

"For me, I've always been about communities," Burks said. "Wherever I'm planted, I try to make an impact, whether that was in Nashville or Milwaukee or the greater Green Bay area. We'll continue to do that here in San Francisco."

Burks was involved in multiple causes during his days with the Packers, among them a project known as Sherman Phoenix, which rose from the aftermath of unrest that came about in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee after a police shooting in 2016.

"Me and my wife were actually on the board for the Sherman Phoenix," Burks said. "They're an entrepreneur hub in Milwaukee, and they help Black-owned businesses. I think there's 27 businesses that are run out of that hub, and we just provide resources for them to kind of get on their feet and empower them to make a difference in the community, providing jobs, and all those things. We sit on the board or that. Super excited about things to come. We just hired a new ED and things like that."

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