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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Hard-working 49ers rookie Ji’Ayir Brown continues to impress Fred Warner

Dec 7, 2023 at 11:16 AM--

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No longer limited to a special teams role, Ji'Ayir Brown's workload has increased since stepping into the starting lineup for injured safety Talanoa Hufanga on November 19. Making the most of his playing time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brown secured an interception and broke up three passes.

Later, it was revealed that Hufanga would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL. Brown would remain in the lineup.

Since then, the rookie safety has played 100 percent of the defensive snaps, totaling 56 and 72 snaps in the last two games. Pro Football Focus ranks Brown as the second-highest graded rookie safety and the fourth-highest graded rookie defensive back.

Despite being a rookie, Brown carries himself like a seasoned veteran, earning admiration from experienced leaders like linebacker Fred Warner.

"As soon as he came into the team, I felt like he was very mature for his age, even being a rookie," Warner said on Wednesday. "Everybody kind of called him like the young vet, even though he hadn't really been on the field much, aside from special teams. He just kind of had that presence about him since the day he got here, and you could tell it's meant a lot to him, and he takes it seriously."

Having veteran playmakers on the defense provides invaluable support. Brown plays alongside savvy safety Tashaun Gipson and knows respected leaders like Warner have his back.

The benefit of not being thrust into a significant role early on allowed Brown to observe and learn while also contributing to special teams. When his opportunity arrived, the rookie was well-prepared and didn't have to learn on the fly.

"And I think Ji'Ayir, as well as anyone, took the frustration with not playing, not being a part of it, number one, performed very well on special teams," general manager John Lynch Lynch said last week. "Number two, [he] found a way to know his job such that when given the opportunity, he was going to shine, and I think he did just that. And so really proud of him."

Since assuming the starting role, Brown's work ethic hasn't waned, recognizing that opportunities in the NFL are limited. While mistakes will occur, Brown's defensive teammates believe he quickly learns from missteps.

"So ever since he got that opportunity, he's kept his head in that playbook and that iPad, constantly watching film, constantly watching tape, out there making checks, making calls," Warner continued. "And even if he's wrong, I'd rather [have] a young guy out there barking calls than having to tell him to speak up.

"So he's doing those little things right, and I'm really proud of him. He's going to continue to get better."

San Francisco selected Brown in the third round (No. 87 overall) out of Penn State in 2023. He has recorded 19 tackles, three passes defensed, and an interception in his 12 game appearances, including two starts, per Pro Football Reference.

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