JiAyir Brown

What Hufanga told Ji'Ayir Brown as 49ers rookie fills starting role

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Rookie safety Ji'Ayir Brown stepped up massively during the 49ers' 27-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, filling in for Talanoa Hufanga after the All-Pro safety suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the third quarter.

Brown recorded the game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter while being credited with two critical pass break-ups in Sunday's win, per Pro Football Focus.

On Tuesday, Brown spoke with reporters about how he and Hufanga have been communicating with each other while the rookie transitions into a prominent role on the 49ers' defense.

"Yeah, I talked to him [Hufanga], just wishing him the best," Brown told reporters. "It's a tough time for him and everything like that, so I just try and keep him up."

Brown also shared that Hufanga quickly offered the rookie strong words of encouragement following San Francisco's win over Tampa Bay, highlighting the strong bond between the two defensive backs.

"He hit me up right after the game when everything was going on and told me how great of a job I was doing," Brown explained. "So I reached back out to him and just tried to keep his head high and stuff like that so he can stay in the right mindset."

After being selected in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Brown had played just 31 snaps with the 49ers' defense this season before replacing Hufanga in the second half of Sunday's game.

The rookie eclipsed his 2023 season total by logging 36 defensive snaps against Tampa Bay, playing a crucial role in staving off the Buccaneers' last-ditch efforts to erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.

As Brown faces the significant challenge of taking on a starting role for a defense with championship expectations, the rookie safety can take solace in the comforting and encouraging words Hufanga has offered.

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