‘We have to … stay all the way locked in for 60 minutes’: Warner, Kittle and others speak ahead of Super Bowl LVIII

Fred Warner speaks to the media on Wednesday in Henderson, Nevada. (Abigail Hirshbein/MEDILL)

By Abigail Hirshbein
Medill Reports

Team captains Fred Warner and George Kittle were members of the San Francisco 49ers’ 2019 team that ended its season with a Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami. Now, with two disappointing championship games in a row behind them and another opportunity for victory ahead, both are approaching this Super Bowl rematch with a different sense of focus.  

Warner was in his second season during Super Bowl LIV, while fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw was a rookie. Each has had a front-row seat to see the work of the other, and Greenlaw has witnessed Warner’s evolution into the player he is today. 

Dre Greenlaw - Super Bowl LVIII
Dre Greenlaw speaks to the media on Wednesday in Henderson, Nevada. (Abigail Hirshbein/MEDILL)

“I’ve seen a ton of growth,” Greenlaw said. “The way that he reads stuff, the way that he communicates, the way that he takes control of the huddle … he kinda just gives confidence in everybody on the field, so, I know a lot of other guys feel that as well.”

“I think this year, we set out for something that we wanted to accomplish and that was win the Super Bowl, so it’s never enough just to make it,” Warner said. He thinks about the 21 unanswered points the defense allowed to eventually lose Super Bowl LIV and knows this time around he and his teammates “have to obviously stay all the way locked in for 60 minutes.” 

Warner is not alone in this feeling. Kittle stresses the importance of staying locked in off the field, as well. 

George Kittle - Super Bowl LVIII
George Kittle speaks to the media on Wednesday in Henderson, Nevada. (Abigail Hirshbein/MEDILL)

“There’s a lot of flashing lights, there’s a lot of cameras, there’s a lot of people who want to pull you in directions,” Kittle said.  He encourages his teammates to “do whatever you can to keep your routine as similar as it has been … do what’s been giving you success the entire season.” 

Although the four years between the two battles have brought a lot of change for members of both Super Bowl LIV teams, Kittle’s 49ers teammates say he has remained consistent with what he brings as a teammate and a leader. 

Richie James - Super Bowl LVIII
Richie James speaks to the media on Thursday in Henderson, Nevada. (Abigail Hirshbein/MEDILL)

“He’s constantly making plays … you know he brings that energy out, and that motivates you to make plays,” said Richie James, a former 49er and current Chiefs wide receiver who will face off against San Francisco on Sunday. James recalls Kittle as a “phenomenal teammate” who shows his leadership on the field.

Kittle told his teammates not to get distracted by all the exciting attractions of Las Vegas in the lead-up to Sunday. You can do all that stuff after the season,” Kittle said. “It’ll be way more fun if you win the Super Bowl, and then anyone, everyone will just let you do it for free, probably.” 

Abigail Hirshbein is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.