Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Norman compares 49ers LB Fred Warner to Luke Kuechly; says ‘You haven’t seen the best’ of Warner yet

Sep 23, 2021 at 6:27 PM--

It's rare for the NFL to see linebackers as good as former Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly, but Kuechly's former teammate, cornerback Josh Norman, thinks the 49ers have one who compares very favorably to the retired All-Pro and likely future Hall of Famer.

Norman, who played with Kuechly in Carolina from 2012 to 2015, spoke briefly about how Warner stacks up to his former teammate during his media session after 49ers practice on Thursday. Norman was asked if there were similarities between Warner and and his former teammate in terms of presence and command in the huddle and gave an emphatically positive answer.

"Oh yeah, there are similarities," Norman said. "It's crazy because I'm kind of seeing it from two different lenses in a sense, just playing with Luke for all those years and then coming out and playing with Fred."

Norman went on to rave about the presence Warner shows on defense, then said Warner was starting to show Kuechly's unique ability to read what opposing offenses are trying to do.

"Just by listening, you can tell (Warner's) voice echoes through the front and the back end," Norman said. "What he's calling, he automatically knows what's going on. (When) he shows up, he shows up with a vengeance. He's getting to the point where he's starting to read where people are going to be. The thing that made Luke what he was -- he had a knack for the game. It's almost like he was an offensive coordinator playing linebacker, in a sense. He knew where the play was at before play even got started. He was already there, and those bulls up front were moving so nobody was able to touch him. And Fred has that here."

Kuechly surprisingly retired in January of 2020 at age 28, citing concerns over what he believed to be a deteriorating ability to play the game with the fast, physical style he had always been accustomed to. Kuechly piled up an impressive resume before calling it a career, including seven Pro Bowls, five first-team All-Pro selections, a spot on the 2010s All-Decade team, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013.

The 24-year-old Warner made his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro team last season, so he still has a ways to go before compiling a list of accolades comparable to that of Kuechly. But he's off to a good start, and Norman said that Warner's best days are still on the horizon.

"He's elevating," Norman said. "He's still on that path to getting to that point. You haven't seen the best of Fred Warner yet, I'm telling you. The sky's the limit for the guy. It really is."
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