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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers LB Fred Warner explains why being irritating at practice is a good thing

Jul 30, 2022 at 2:52 PM--

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Fred Warner has been getting on the nerves of some of his 49ers teammates recently, but it's all being done in preparation for what's to come during the regular season.

Warner was singled out earlier this week by wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk as being "irritating" during practice. Warner told Aiyuk in the locker room ahead of practice that he was going to be talking some smack that day, but he still seemed to get under Aiyuk's skin a little bit.

"He told me what type of time it is in the locker room earlier today, so I can't be mad at him," Aiyuk said. "We're all competitors. That defense is the best defense in the National Football League, so that's the cream of the crop when we go against those guys. We know we have to bring it every single day."

Warner spoke with reporters after practice on Saturday and explained why he's been chirping at his teammates. It's been all about getting them ready for the same thing on gamedays while also trying to get the best out of other players.

"I'm trying to get everybody battle-ready," Warner said. "When you get down to it and there's a lot of games where it comes down to that one or two scores and you're playing against a top-tier team -- I mean, they're all top-tier teams, it's the NFL -- you might have some guys on the opposite side of the ball who are even chirpier than I am. You want to be able to look across and be like, 'Man, this is nothing. I've been going against the best all training camp.' So now you go out there there and you've got extreme confidence knowing that 'Okay, I'm ready, I'm battle tested. Let's go do this.'"

In the case of Aiyuk, Warner is also trying to do what he can to help the talented third-year receiver to reach his full potential. Aiyuk has had some ups and downs over his first two seasons with the 49ers, but many feel year three could be the season where he puts it all together and plays at a Pro Bowl level throughout the season.

"I chose him out," Warner said. "I specifically said, and I'll say why. I think he's ready to make that next step into playing at an elite level, right? Ever since he's gotten here in the last couple years, I've kind of gotten after him a little bit, going around the locker room and around the building because I know how much he has in him. And I know if I nag him a little bit he's going to get sick and tired of that and kind of hold his own. And so I like what I see out of BA. He works super hard, and he's starting to really gain that mindset of knowing that he's the guy and he's capable. And I'm just trying to get the best out of him. And that's it."

Is it helping? Time will tell, but Warner likes where Aiyuk's game is at the moment.

"He's in a great spot, I feel like," Warner said. "I feel like he's doing all the things he needs to because you know he's capable of making the big play. I think it's honestly just the little things -- the contested catches that he's making. Those are the ones we're going to need."

Aiyuk isn't alone in being a target of Warner's annoyances. Warner has been letting the quarterbacks hear it, and there's been plenty for them to hear given how successful the defense has been against them in practice so far with double-digit interceptions in less than a week.

"Same thing. All the quarterbacks, I like just getting after them," Warner said.

Warner also uses his practice smack talk to his own benefit. If he declares ahead of time that he's going to be chirpy with a player at practice that day, Warner feels like he has to raise his game in order to back up his talk.

"I don't go out there with there's a line to it," Warner said. "I just go out there with the intent of dominating every single rep and they've got to hear my mouth regardless. That's also just putting pressure on me. I'm always trying to find ways to get the best out of myself, so me telling him beforehand 'Hey, I'm going to be on you today,' now I have to go out there and execute or else it's just talk and there's no action to it."

As mentioned, the defense has been able to back up any smack talk with their performance in training camp to this point. Warner and the defense will continue to do what they need to do to help get the offense where they need to be, but for the defense, it's been a case of so far, so good.

"I like where we're at," Warner said. "I like where our mindset's at. It's really about taking it one day at a time."

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