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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Fred Warner addresses Armstead’s departure, Greenlaw’s recovery, Super Bowl window

Apr 22, 2024 at 4:21 PM

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The news of Arik Armstead's departure from the San Francisco 49ers after nine seasons with the team shocked linebacker Fred Warner. Armstead, a former first-round pick, was an impactful force on the football field. However, his availability over the last two seasons forced the 49ers to reevaluate his contract, and when his salary could not be significantly reduced, the two sides parted ways.

"Huge surprise," Warner said of learning that Armstead was being released. "Ever since I've been here, we called him the blueprint for how to be a Niner. That was the longest-tenured Niner that's been here and a guy that's done it right through and through."

Warner has been in the NFL long enough to understand how the league works. Over the years, he's watched several teammates leave while others have come in to try to replace them.

"I've been in this thing long enough where, at this point, nothing surprises me," Warner shared. "There are decisions that have to be made. This is a business at the end of the day. And, for him, I'm happy for him and the new opportunity that he has in Jacksonville to go and succeed there and provide for his family."

San Francisco traded for Maliek Collins and signed free agent Jordan Elliott, hoping the two can help offset any drop-off related to Armstead's departure. The 49ers will also have an opportunity to acquire an impactful rookie in this week's draft.

Warner continued, "And we obviously got some big shoes to fill at that position. And it's not up to just one guy to just come in and be the new Arik Armstead. It's going to take the whole group to elevate their game to make up for that. So yeah, sad to see him go, for sure."

Super Bowl window

When asked if there is any concern about keeping this core group of talent together long enough to make another Super Bowl run, Warner acknowledged that roster decisions are out of his hands.

However, he has confidence in the impressive track record of general manager John Lynch and his staff. They have maintained a competitive roster, consistently making strategic moves to bolster the team's strengths and address weaknesses.

"I don't know how long this core group is going to be around, and you got to treat every year like it's your last," Warner stated. "And you don't know how long you're going to be together, so you've got to make sure that you go all out every single season that you have because that window for winning Super Bowls, it's not always open. But as long as I've been here, it's been open, so we've got to make it happen."

Dre Greenlaw progressing

Warner was heartbroken to watch his teammate and friend, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, leave the field at Allegiant Stadium during Super Bowl 58 after suffering a torn Achilles as the defense retook the field after a play. Greenlaw's absence for the remainder of the game was impactful, and the 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime.

Following the game, Warner voiced assurance that Greenlaw would return better than ever, a sentiment that remains unchanged as the team's offseason program gets underway.

"I see him every day," Warner told reporters. "That boot on his foot is getting smaller and smaller day by day, working to getting back on his two feet. He's as optimistic as he can be. I mean, that's such a devastating injury, especially that time of the year, the last game of the season. So, I felt for him, obviously, in the moment that it happened. I felt for him ever since."

A month ago, general manager John Lynch shared that Greenlaw is targeting a return for the start of the regular season. However, the 49ers are being more realistic and cautious with the linebacker's timeline.

"Dre will tell you he's going to be back Week 1," Lynch said with a smile. "I don't put anything past Dre, but we have to be smart. Maybe a PUP (physically unable to perform list) situation."

Warner remains diligent about checking in with Greenlaw, commenting, "He's had the best mindset about it and continues to stay optimistic and knowing that he'll be back stronger than ever."

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