Jimmie Ward breaks down his switch to free safety


Jimmie Ward spoke to Bay Area reporters Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what he said.

Q: How has the transition been to free safety?

WARD: It’s been going good so far. Can’t wait until today.

Q: Do you like that? It seemed like you were good at outside corner last year?

WARD: I like all the DB spots. I don’t have one favorite or one specific spot I would rather play. If it was up to me, I would love to play all three. Now I’m doing whatever the organization needs me to do.

Q: What is it about this role that you’re in right now that suits what you do will?

WARD: Just really fly to the ball and make plays. That’s what I like so far about free safety.

Q: How much have you watched of Earl Thomas?

WARD: Earl Thomas, Coach Haffley just pushed that out to me right now. But I already had been watching Earl Thomas. He’s one of my favorite players.

Q: Do you think Rashard Robinson is ready to cover No. 1 wide receivers?

WARD: Oh yeah. Rashard is pretty good, he’s pretty talented. And he’s a young player so he’s only going to get better.

Q: How is your shoulder?

WARD: It’s definitely coming. I got into a little collision yesterday but it’s definitely 100 percent.

Q: Is that a concern at all switching positions? You could be running into guys at a higher speed at safety than if you were playing cornerback?

WARD: That’s true, but when I played corner I still found myself being real physical. I feel like this is no different. Maybe a little more tackling.

Q: Are you going to have a greater voice in the defense, trying to direct guys and position people?

WARD: Yes, because I feel like you’ve got to be a quarterback on the defense. You’ve got to take charge. You’ve got to be a leader.

Q: Have the majority of your reps been at single-high free safety?

WARD: Yes, so far.

Q: Would you fit as a cornerback in this system given what they ask their guys to do?

WARD: Right now, I feel like it’s not a complicated defense. Basically Cover 3. I feel like I’d be good.

Q: Have you had talks with the team about the fifth year option?

WARD: I have no clue right now. I only can control what I can control and that’s being on the field and giving it my all. We’ve got the draft coming up tomorrow, so they’ve got a lot of tough decisions to make. There still is some more time. They’ll get to me with that.

Q: Are you surprised Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been signed yet?

WARD: Um, yeah, you know. He’s a great guy. I feel like he’ll end up fitting some team and somebody will give him a chance.

Q: Who is playing Nickel?

WARD: We have K-K (K’waun Williams) and we have Will (Redmond) – both of those guys filling in right now at Nickel. And then we have (JaCorey) Shepherd. So, it’s three guys, and maybe Keith Reaser can get in on the Nickel job because he has shown he can do that, too. Right now, we’re four deep.

Q: Are you happy the team kept DB coach Jeff Hafley?

WARD: Yeah, man. That’s my boy. I’m glad they kept some coach that knows the players. At least we have a coach that knows the guys, who can help out John Lynch and the defensive coordinator now and tell him a little bit about each guy. But I’m pretty sure at practice you have to demonstrate it all over each year. That’s about getting better.

Q: Do you have any sense of if your position could change after the draft?

WARD: Not yet, but I’m versatile. I can play a couple positions. Whatever decision John Lynch makes, it’s going to be best for the team.

This article has 81 Comments

  1. “I got into a little collision yesterday but it’s definitely 100 percent.” Shh, don’t let the commish hear you say that.

  2. Please don’t start your headline with “Jimmie Ward breaks down”! :-P

    Thanks for the transcript. Ward to FS it is. Highly doubt Hooker is the pick at 2.

    1. Before I change my mock draft #1 pick from Hooker to Adams, tell me who will back up Ward at SHS if Ward goes down? I don’t see anyone really to get excited about. I suppose Reid could do it, but you and I both know that Reid made mental errors in the secondary the last of couple of years which resulted in opponent TDs.

          1. So the starting CB would be the backup FS? Doubt it. They will want Ward to concentrate on one spot once they have figured out what it is.

            1. Normally, I would agree with your assertion. However, the SHS is so important to this ‘Seattle-style’ defense that, imo, you really should have two very capable individuals that can play that position. Just ask any Seahawk player or fan what the loss of Earl Thomas meant to that team last year.

              1. Yeah, but if they want Ward to be ready to play that position in a game he will need to continue to practice it. Which means he won’t be practicing near enough at his primary role. It would be different if he already had extensive experience as a SHS, but he doesn’t. My guess is that if there is an injury, Tartt would move to FS.

              2. Though the more likely alternative is they just draft someone later to provide depth at the position.

            2. Exactly right Scooter. I thought Grant had mentioned K’Waun had experience at FS, and this quote from Rotowire “He (K’Waun Williams) figures to either compete for a backup role at free safety providing depth behind Eric Reid (and now it appears Jimmie Ward is the leading FS candidate) or try to find a more prominent role at cornerback (presumably in the slot).

              And of course Eric Reid can backup either Safety spot. I think Reid’s injury history makes him just too big of a gamble to start at either spot, but especially SS, with the number of concussions he’s dealt with.

              Draft Jamal Adams, and you’ve got Ward playing the single-high spot, where he seems a natural fit, and Reid is your primary backup at both Safety positions. J. Tartt provides additional depth and now your set at Safety for 2017.

              The only reason to draft Hooker in round one would be if Shanny, Saleh and Lynch don’t feel like Ward is a good fit playing the Earl Thomas role, and it appears that they do, in fact, feel like Ward does fit, and are going to give him a long look at the FS position this season.

        1. “You don’t take a player #2 to be a backup.”

          We’ve had this discussion for the past couple of drafts, Scooter :)

          You were the one who always said that fans should not expect a first round pick to start, whereas I have always maintained that they should. But I will admit that you had some good arguments which tempered my position.

          Are you now saying that there is a range of draft picks (maybe 1 through 5) in the first round that should be expected to start and not be a backup their first year?

          1. Ideally you don’t need your first round picks to start. But they should contribute. If they take Hooker and they like Ward at SHS, what does Hooker contribute? He would just be a backup. You can get one of those later. And when you are picking #2 as a result of having the 2nd worst record in the NFL, you aren’t in a position to be looking at the ideal world of easing draft picks into roles either.

  3. Q: Are you going to have a greater voice in the defense, trying to direct guys and position people?

    WARD: Yes, because I feel like you’ve got to be a quarterback on the defense. You’ve got to take charge. You’ve got to be a leader.

    Overlooked part of what Ward brings is he’s a film rat. I think SHS will bring out his true abilities.

  4. Finally!

    The Niners may stop playing players out of position.

    Hope they also do not play favorites like Baalke did.

    Sounds like Redmond is healthy and Ward is FS, so King Solomon will reign. Hope they trade back, and still get him.

    Cant wait to get the nitty gritty from Grant.

    1. “The Niners may stop playing players out of position.”

      Amen to that, except Reid would be out of position. Grizzly Adams is the pick.

      1. Wait until the draft unfolds. Bill Walsh liked to have depth on the defensive line. Rotate them in to keep them fresh.

        1. Right, so on one hand you are declaring they are now putting people in their right positions because Ward is getting reps at FS, on the other you are saying lets wait until the draft because Armstead may not be. Gotcha.

          1. No, Scooter, I just think they are trying out all sorts of configurations, and it is better to find out if it works or not , now, instead of finding out later on. This experiment may decide on who they draft tomorrow.

        2. You’re right Seb. Fred Dean hated it at first, but Walsh had him be a situational pass rusher, where Dean thrived. Walsh side that while he was the OC with the Bengals for many years, he got frustrated when the team would lose games late because their DL was worn out.

      2. I think that they are trying to see if Armstead is a fit there. If he is, then it makes sense to draft Thomas at # 2. Thomas can kick inside in passing downs and Aaron Lynch can be a situational pass rusher.

        1. Of course they are. They don’t know how many of these players fit their scheme right now. And they haven’t filled out their roster yet, so some guys may be getting reps at positions they won’t end up playing much right now.

      3. Scooter, I can only speculate, but I think it might work out, and maybe even very well, my logic being that whereas before he’s worked against guards, now he’ll face tackles, who presumably will have less leverage. Please let me know whether or not this makes sense to you.

        1. I know what you’re saying. My concern is he isn’t an edge bender, and playing out wider means he has further to go before getting to the QB.

  5. I don’t believe that Ward or Reid being in those position means the team doesn’t take a safety with their first pick regardless of where it happens to take place. If they have a safety rated at the slot they are picking and believe he will be better then the player they currently have at the position there is not reason not to draft that player. Ward and Reid are both making changes and with the shuffling of the front office nobody from the old regime is guaranteed a spot at this point. They can easily draft Hooker or Adams or whomever and trade the player they’re replacing.

    1. And they’re still debating on picking up wards 5th year option to the very last minute. If ward was really that good they would’ve already made the decision.

    2. Good point.

      My take on not drafting Hooker isn’t because he is getting reps there though. As I have said since they hired Saleh, I really think Ward will be a very good fit at SHS. Now it is confirmed they are really going to give him a look there, and have now had a chance to see him at the spot before the draft, it is my belief they will be happy to go with Ward at FS. Just my opinion.

      1. I think that the delay in picking up Ward’s 5th year option may have to do with draft gamemanship to keep other teams guessing.

        1. Call me gullible, but I kind of believe Lynch when he says they haven’t had time to really think about the 5th year option in detail yet. They started behind every team in terms of draft prep this year.

      2. I agree with Ward. I think they see enough to give him a season in the spot. I think they will still target a SS very high if not first overall.

  6. This guy was a waste of a first rounder. He gets beat on routes and gets snagged on. Only reason he didn’t look worse is because Brock sucked even more by make no mistake Jimmy ward is trash. I’ll tell you this, if he wasn’t on our team would we really be worse off? Not really. Instead of ward and armstead we had the opportunity to draft Bradley roby and Marcus peters. Thanks baalke.

  7. King Solomon is the difference maker. He will make our D a better unit. No pass rush since Vic Fangio left. No run stopper since Cowboy left. Those are our two biggest needs.

    1. Not QB? The most important position in all of sports?
      Has every 49er fan forgot what won us all those SB tittles?

      1. Apparantly they have..Were now a cold weather defensive team…
        Going by most Niner fan drafts lately were just gonna keep deafting defense and just go with an offense that can keep us in games with conservative plays and field goal…It will be riviting..

        1. Or maybe we haven’t.

          We won with COMPLETE teams. We didn’t win with a pass-happy attacks and no run game. We didn’t win with no defense by out-scoring everyone 45 to 40 or some such. We didn’t win with a second-rate college offense and a great defense.

          They were complete teams. But you can’t fix it all in one draft. So you have to maximize your talent even if it means passing on players in key positions that you feel can’t really make that much of an upgrade.

            1. I figure I have put out 50 mocks, but now you known my thinking on the drafting process. The Players selected changed over time, just like they did after the SB, pre combine, post combine, Free Agency and now the draft.

              It helped to gauge all of the other mocks, but in the end, there may be several trades, that will throw every draft board into disarray.

      2. Yeah the qb is what we need. Too bad he’s not in this draft. We can get a qb next year when there is going to be 10x better prospects or we can just sign cousins. This is the year to build up our team with QUALITY players and redo the foundation while next year we can get our needs met.

    2. No our biggest need is a playmaker on either side of the ball. Drafting 3 straight d lineman is the dumb thing to do. Especially Solomon Thomas. The thing that put him on the map was the game against trubisky? Get outta here. Trubisky is weak. Another mark Sanchez.

  8. Rotoworld:

    “49ers WR Bruce Ellington (hamstring) has been sidelined at OTAs.

    The 49ers’ projected starter at slot receiver all last offseason, Ellington wound up missing all of 2016 with a torn hamstring, and still isn’t recovered. The 49ers traded for Jeremy Kerley just before the season and he led the team in receiving. Ellington is a cut candidate under the Niners’ new regime. “

  9. New mock before my last mock.

    It includes a wildly fantastic trades, so it is improbable, yet bold.

    Niners trade back with the Saints. They also bundle players who need to be cleared out to allow for future additions.

    Niners will trade so the Saints still have picks every round. Niners will offer pick numbers 2, 143 and 161. Saints will offer pick numbers 11, 32 and 76, along with a 2018 second round draft pick. Niners sweeten the deal by offering Aaron Lynch, Keith Reaser, and/or Aaron Burbridge.

    The Niners will then trade pick number 32 to the Jets, for pick numbers 39 and 107, which balances out perfectly in the TVC.

    Saints would do the deal because they could get pick number 2 that would help them get to the playoffs, while still having picks in every round.

    Jets would want to leapfrog into the first round to get their QB, and it would only cost a late third.

    The Niners trade back 9 spots, but end up with pick numbers 11
    34, 39, 66, 76, 107, 109, 146, 198, 202 and 219, along with a 2018 second round pick.

    At 11, players like Thomas, Fournett, Trubisky, Christian McCaffrey, OJ Howard, Malik Hooker, Reuben Foster, Jabrill Peppers, Haason Reddick, Corey Davis, John Ross, Derek Barnett and Taco Charlton, could be available.

    Using the CBS DB and trying to pick within 5 of the rankings, the Niners could select-

    11- Christian Mccaffrey RB, who is ranked 11.
    34- Jarrad Davis ILB
    39- Carl Lawson DE
    66- Dalvin Tomlinson DT
    76- Davis Webb QB
    107- George Kittle TE
    109- Justin Evans SS
    146- Howard Wilson CB
    198- Noah Brown WR
    202- Connor Harris ILB
    219- Stevie Tu’ikolovatu NT

    1. Finally, the Niners make another blockbuster trade. They trade Christian McCaffrey and Trenton Brown to the Broncos for Shaquil Barrett. John Elway would want to fulfill his promise to CM to get him because his father, Ed, was a Bronco.

      Niners get an instant starter, a veteran who is second string only because he sits behind Von Miller. Broncos get O line help. Brown may have been too big for the WCO.

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