SANTA CLARA -- Linebacker Kwon Alexander is finally ready for his preseason debut with the 49ers, but he's finding it difficult to not look ahead to returning to Tampa Bay in Week 1.
"It's hard, it's hard," Alexander confessed. "But you know, I take it one day at a time. Try to make sure my team is straight and I'm straight so once we get there it's time."
The 49ers' player-performance staff has been limiting Alexander's time on the field, moving gradually from individual drills to 11-on-11s, and now finally a game. Alexander has tried not to compare his progress to other player's recovery timetables.
"Everybody is different so I've been working hard, been working my butt off so it's time to go," Alexander said.
Alexander detailed how it's been a long road back, but also how he knew exactly when he was ready.
"Once I got my speed," Alexander explained. "Once I could hit it going really fast, being able to cut and everything, and being able to adjust. Now I'm ready to go."
Alexander is excited to get on the field after nearly a year away from the game after tearing his ACL late October 2018. He believes it's a necessary step in getting ready for the regular season.
"It's a big thing for me," Alexander said. "I haven't played since a minute now so I'm happy to be back out there. I just think playing instead of practicing, playing in a real game, you know it's better to be ready for the first game, so you get your feet wet, since I ain't played so I'm ready to go out there and show what I can do."
Being away from the game has made the fifth-year linebacker appreciate it even more.
"I put a lot on it," Alexander said, "Just for me, ball can be gone away from you very fast. So it just made me be more humble, and just work harder and harder, and now I'm here."
One thing that Alexander has been able to do while being kept off the field is influence fellow linebacker Fred Warner and his leadership style. Alexander had nothing but compliments for his partner on the field.
"He's just been doing great," Alexander said of Warner. "He's very smart, intelligent, he's going to be nice. I need to keep his name out there alive, he's going to be a great middle linebacker."
Alexander sees Warner's potential even after only a few months together during the offseason.
"I've already seen it," Alexander said. "This is his second year, too. I remember my first two years and he's way ahead of me so he's going to be a great player."
Along with the excitement of his return, Alexander almost seems a little relieved to have this final hurdle just a few days in front of him.
"I'm back man, I'm back. When we've been practicing, I've been working on everything. Now it's just time to take it to the game. It's time. I'm ready."
49ers' Kwon Alexander excited to get back on field, return to Tampa Bay originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area