After beginning his ninth season with the San Francisco 49ers on IR, suffering a broken hand two snaps into his maiden contest of the year in Week 5, and then making his re-debut in Week 7 with a club around his surgically repaired mitt, it would be understandable if Jimmie Ward wasn’t particularly enthused about the 2022 NFL season. Just about everything that could go wrong has, and when he returned to the field in Week 7, it was at slot cornerback, not his native safety position, as the duo of Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga have been one of Pro Football Focus’ top safety tandem in 2022.
When asked on Wednesday if he was expecting to play free safety for the remainder of the season, Ward was unable to give a definitive answer either way, as passed along by Niners Nation.
“I don’t know, man. I’m just going to do what the coaches tell me to do,” Ward replied. “It’s my last year on the contract. I’m just trying to be a great team player.”
Oh no, does Ward know something that fans don’t? As Niners Nation pointed out, Ward’s contract does void at the end of the year, even if he will be receiving money from the team until 2025, and he may see the writing on the wall regarding his future as a result of the play of Gipson and Hufanga.
Ward Further Elaborates On His Role With The San Francisco 49ers.
When asked to elaborate on his role, Ward discussed how he needs to give it his all, even if he isn’t playing his preferred position.
“It’s been a while since I’ve even been on the field, Ward said. “I don’t know, man. It’s been a challenge, man. Like I said, it’s a challenge. Maybe if I was at safety —I don’t know — it probably would have been a challenge, too. I have no clue, man. I’ve got to just figure it out.”
“I don’t have any excuses or anything. I’ve just to go out there, and I’ve just got to go and play. I can’t hope for anything. I can’t wish I didn’t have a club. I can’t wish I was back at safety. So I go out there and play, man. I don’t have room to hope or wish and this and that. I’ve just got to go out there and give it my all.”
Though Ward has played in the slot throughout his career, it’s clear doing so now, coming off two injuries, with a surgically-repaired hand no less, is a tough ask.
DeMeco Ryans Complements Jimmie Ward’s Versatility
Afforded a chance to speak to the media himself, Niners defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was asked about Ward’s role moving forward and where he would spend the majority of his time moving forward, as transcribed by All 49ers FN.
“We’ll see how it goes,” said DeMeco Ryans on keeping Ward at nickel corner. “Jimmie is a unique player in a sense that he can do things that other players just can’t do. His versatility is very unique. He’s probably one of the only guys in this league that can do safety, can come down in the box, play nickel, he can do it all, blitzing, covering. Not too many guys can do that and that’s a unique talent that Jimmie has, a god given ability that not many guys have, so that’s what makes Jimmie unique. That’s what makes him stand out among any other players in this league.”
When asked if he has discussed moving Ward to the slot with his defensive captain, Ryans gave a quick follow-up.
“We have conversations, so that’s between me and Jimmie,” Ryans said. “We had conversations about it.”