49ers' Fred Warner has noticed healthier, happier Javon Kinlaw

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Warner has seen healthier and happier Kinlaw this offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SANTA CLARA — Javon Kinlaw has a little more pep in his step this offseason and linebacker Fred Warner has taken notice.

Since being drafted by the 49ers with the No. 14 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Kinlaw has only appeared in 18 games -- 16 as a starter. Chronic knee issues have kept the defensive tackle from realizing his potential, but Warner has seen a shift in his teammate's physical and mental state.

“I think with any player when you’re starting to feel more healthy, you’re starting to feel yourself again,” Warner told the media Monday. “You start to have more energy. You can tell somebody is much happier and more upbeat. You can tell that’s coming out in J.K.”

The imposing lineman underwent an ACL reconstruction procedure in October 2021 and spent time in Los Angeles rehabbing his knee in order to get more one-on-one attention from medical personnel during the NFL season.

Since returning to Santa Clara, Kinlaw’s improved movement and attitude have been noticed by more than just Warner. While at the NFL Scouting Combine, 49ers general manager John Lynch remarked he has been watching Kinlaw go through drills this offseason. The general manager has noticed better agility, speed and a renewed sense of joy from Kinlaw.

"He’s doing really well, he really is,” Lynch said in March. “It’s nice to see Javon around with a smile. He’s not in pain anymore and he’s a big man. I think the plan is he could be back during the offseason program but we want to make sure he is fully rehabbed."

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Warner is excited to see what is in store for Kinlaw and is loving the new attitude. The All-Pro linebacker has been taking advantage of his opportunity to have fun with the third-year 49er.

“I like just messing around with him each day, doing little things,” Warner said. "Compete with him, mess around with him and just seeing him, he looks like he’s in the best shape he’s been in. He has his own protocol right now where they are making sure to get him ready for when he need to be out there for us.”

The 49ers will need increased production from Kinlaw on the interior of the defensive line after losing D.J. Jones to the Denver Broncos in free agency.

Paired with Arik Armstead, a healthy and happy Kinlaw likely will help the 49ers maintain their reputation as one of the best run-stopping lines in the league.

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