The San Francisco 49ers welcomed defensive back Jimmie Ward back to team drills on Tuesday, marking his first such work this offseason. Ward spent the offseason workout program and the first two and a half weeks of training camp getting back to 100 percent following foot surgery last fall. He was doing individual work through the weekend, but is back in team drills at defensive back.
Ward met with the media on Wednesday and had a chance to go into some detail about a new device he is using to help protect his foot. It is referred to as a "turtle shell" and is described as a custom-made clamp that goes inside the shoe and fits around his foot. Ward said he is getting used to wearing it, and that was part of the reason for his delay in getting back into game action. He said he has not had any problems since putting it on, so I guess we'll wait and see what comes of it.
Ward also talked about the work he was doing his first day back at practice. He spent the day working at safety, and seemed fine moving around wherever was necessary to find a role. Tramaine Brock has been handling slot corner duties in Ward's absence, and seems intent on securing that role. It would be disappointing to see Ward out of the nickel lineup, but one positive to that is that maybe the team becomes comfortable with him as the primary safety backup. If that were the case, that could mean the departure of Craig Dahl. I don't expect a lot of playing time for Ward this Sunday, but it will make the final two preseason games that much more interesting.
Here's Ward's full transcript.
On the kind of work he did in first day back:
My reps was minimal. Probably, I went with the 3s, to just ease my way back into the system.
On the caution bringing him back:
Yea, it's basically, we just want to take it slow. Just listening to the trainers right now, not pushing it. We're trying to get to game 1. Right now it's just the second preseason game.
On the "turtle shell" he wears on his foot:
Yea, it's just underneath the cleat. It's something that the doctor, it's my first time ever having to wear something like this, well my first time I've ever had an injury like this. It's pretty neat, keeps my foot safe.
On adjusting to it:
I would probably say that's what took me so long, right now why I'm taking it so slow. At the end of the day, it's all in my mind, so once I put it in the back of my head, I think I'll be ready to go.
On top or bottom of foot:
Basically it's like a clamp covering, nearly covering my whole foot. Like 3/4ths of my foot.
On if it works:
[laugh] I guess. I'm just listening to the doctors, but it feels like it had no problems so far since I've been wearing it.
Oh yes, they end up coming to me. The limo driver end up doing it for me, so I was good.
On competition among defensive backs:
It's competition, it's football. If he can take the spot, he can have it. I just gotta fit my way in somewhere, and just keep helping our defense.
On safety work last season:
Preseason, just about it.
On if role changing in 2015 or if back to nickel:
Probably both. Right now I'm repping more safety, which is pretty cool. But other than that, most likely I'm going to get back in the nickel role, too.
On being back with HS teammate Jaquiski Tartt:
Yea, it feels good to look next to me and I can see an old face I recognize. But other than that, it's still football. It's still the same.
On if he's helping Tartt get up to speed:
A little, but Quasi holds on. Really smart guy. Big, physical. So, I think we both, basically, we help each other.
On what clamp is made of:
Plastic. And it has some type of foam right there where I ended up having surgery. And it's pretty safe.
And comfort level:
Yea, it's cushion kind of on an outer layer. So you know it keeps my foot comfortable.
On the broken screw last year:
Basically no, I think it's still the same screw in the foot. The screw didn't break, it just was just bent.
On safety positions in new defense, and if still interchangeable:
It's really about the same. Just a new defensive concept, but it's still safety, just got the normal base defenses.
On any changes to nickel with blitzing:
Same too. Coach just calling a lot more blitz plays.