With a little health and stability, Jimmie Ward finally showing 49ers, NFL what he can do


first_img FIRST LOOK: Hip-hop icon E-40 teams with 49ers on new music video 49ers on Wednesday: Where have all the defensive interceptions gone? Ward arrived in San Francisco just in time to say farewell to the Jim Harbaugh era, then watched as the 49ers brought in a new coaching staff for each of the next three seasons. With all the turbulence since being drafted, “there was a lot of stuff I couldn’t do,” Ward said, like show off the tackling technique he uses to bring down players nearly twice his weight (though which allowed Julio Jones to just cross the plane in the final play of Sunday’s loss to the Falcons).SEASON PASS DIGITAL OFFERIf you have not already, we strongly encourage you to sign up for a digital subscription, which gives you access to all content on the Mercury News and East Bay Times websites. With your support, we can continue bringing these stories — and much more — to your screens. Here’s where to sign up for the season pass: Mercury News, East Bay Times.This season, Ward has finally found a sliver of stability. He’s playing the position he loves at safety, and he’s doing it in the third year of Robert Saleh’s defensive system.He signed a one-year, prove-it deal worth $2 million this offseason. And prove it, he has — that is after another broken collarbone in the spring and broken finger that kept him out the first three weeks of the season. How much Jimmy G-to-Kittle is too much Jimmy G-to-Kittle? SANTA CLARA — By the time the fifth-year option on his rookie deal expired after the 2018 season, Jimmie Ward hadn’t garnered much goodwill from the 49ers’ fanbase.The oft-injured former first-round pick had cycled through four coaching staffs, moved from nickelback to safety to outside cornerback and back to safety. He suffered even more broken bones than he had coaches or positions.The constant churn took as much of a toll on him mentally as the injuries did physically.“I’m trying to move around and learn positions and learn new schemes, so that’s putting extra on my mind and my mind goes down to my body,” Ward said. “It all plays a part. … it kind of hurt my career. It definitely did.” Hall of Fame QB who once tormented 49ers now sees them as the NFC’s top playoff seed “Jimmie’s been playing fantastic football,” Saleh said.Ward’s turnaround was affirmed Tuesday, getting a nod as a Pro Bowl alternate — the first such selection of his career. Since he debuted in Week 5, Ward has made 54 tackles and ranked as one of Pro Football Focus’ top-graded safeties.Before he was a first-round pick, before he was an NFL defensive back, Ward was a 168-pound linebacker. He’s carried that mentality with him ever since.“He just wants to run and hit people,” Saleh said.Related Articles 49ers mix Pro Bowl quartet with surprising snubs That’s partly why the 49ers have stuck with him up to now. Can you hold it against a guy for playing too hard?Now find the nearest piece of wood and knock on it before this next sentence: Ward is in the midst of his longest stretch of healthy football since his second professional season. This Saturday against the Rams will be his 12th straight game. It’s the first time in his career that he’s had both good health and a stable role.He has even more to show than what he’s displayed as San Francisco’s starting free safety, he said, though he declined to expand. (“I don’t want teams to know what I don’t do,” he said with a laugh.)Will it be enough to keep Ward around? Neither he nor Saleh wanted to speculate on the future.“After this football season, it comes down to business,” Ward said. “I feel like they like me, but at the same time, it’s about business. It’s about money. It’s about who they want to pay and who they don’t want to pay. But that doesn’t have to do with anything right now.”last_img

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