San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw wasn’t expecting to play a full starter’s workload of snaps in his first career NFL game. But when Kwon Alexander got ejected late in the first quarter for lowering his head on a hit to Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, Greenlaw had to play the final three quarters in his place.
The fifth-round draft pick held up well in his 56 defensive snaps in relief of Alexander, recording four tackles in a 31-17 win over the Buccaneers.
“Nothing like I imagined,” Greenlaw said, via Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I mean it was everything and more. Just the first time being out there, I definitely did not expect to play as much as I did, but coach always tells us to be ready.
“So when Kwon went down, it was my time to step in and focus on doing my job and doing my assignment.”
Greenlaw’s 56 defensive plays accounted for 81 percent of all defensive snaps for the 49ers against the Buccaneers. He had been working at the strong-side linebacker spot during the week of practice before needing to move off the ball to the weak-side spot to replace Alexander during the game. Greenlaw managed to handle it all in stride.
“Once we lost Kwon, it was a chain reaction to everybody, so he had to step it up,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He had to play a lot. Had a few rookie mistakes like they all do, but he played good enough for us to win and I was happy with him. Now, we need to get better going forward.”
Added Greenlaw: “It was a crazy experience and just the feeling of being out there and getting that win and sharing it with my teammates is unreal.”