Rookie safety Ji'Ayir Brown will have to adapt quickly to his new role as a starter on the 49ers' defense after taking over for Talanoa Hufanga following the All-Pro's season-ending ACL injury in Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While Brown is sure to endure growing pains with his new duties, coach Kyle Shanahan explained how the veteran leadership of Tashaun Gipson Sr. and Fred Warner will assist the transition for the rookie defensive back.
"Gipson's got such a poise back there; it's kind of Gip on the back end and Fred in the middle," Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday. "Their ages are a little different, but they're both the dads of the group, I say, with Gip being a little more senior than Fred. They're also the ones who aren't as reckless. I say that in a bad way, but it could also be a good thing. They control things a lot back there; they make very few mistakes. Guys get to watch him a lot by example, too, just how he carries himself each week, how he takes care of his body. I think he's a guy that not just the secondary looks up to, but everyone on our team."
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Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks echoed a similar sentiment, taking a moment to highlight Hufanga's importance while detailing why he is confident Brown will step up in the All-Pro's absence.
"I first of all want to acknowledge the mere fact of [Hufanga]. A captain," Wilks explained. "When I say a captain, I'm talking about a leader in the secondary, an All-Pro player. We're definitely going to miss him. For Ji'Ayir to step in at that particular time in the game and perform the way he did, it's exciting.
"He [Brown] and I talked last week, and his preparation each and every day, you can see his growth from when he got here back in the spring. He's playing with a great level of confidence. I think the guys back there with [Tashaun Gipson], [Fred Warner], and all the guys he's going to be surrounded with, I think he's going to be fine."
San Francisco 49ers
Gipson has started 166 games across 12 seasons in the NFL, providing a wealth of knowledge and experience for the younger members of the 49ers' defense.
Since joining the 49ers in 2022, Gipson has started all 30 games San Francisco has played, recording six interceptions over that span.
While Brown will endure the challenge of picking things up on the fly, partnering on the back end with a clever veteran like Gipson is the perfect scenario for the young safety.