San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward drew a tough assignment on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. He spent a sizable chunk of the afternoon covering Larry Fitzgerald, and after the game, the eventual Hall-of-Famer receiver had strong words for Ward.
Players exchange jerseys fairly regularly after games, but Fitzgerald went a step further. Fitzgerald autographed the jersey with some inspiring words, telling Ward:
I admire your toughness and grit. You bring it every time we battle. I wish you the best in your career!
Here is a picture of the jersey:
Ward had four pass break-ups against Fitzgerald. Ward’s most notable negative play came against Nelson. He was flagged for a 38-yard defensive pass interference call. Ward and Nelson had engaged in downfield hand-fighting a previous play and the ref did not throw a flag. Nelson and Ward were going back and forth on this subsequent play, and even though both players were getting physical, Ward got called for DPI. The wide receivers generally seem to get greater latitude, but it was disappointing nonetheless.
I find myself having difficulties at times assessing Ward. He makes big pass break-ups, and is willing to get physical. But then we see some inconsistency for stretches. I think I like what I see, but given the state of the 49ers, I always find myself wondering if I have lowered my expectations too much. I’m not saying I have with Ward, but it is something to consider in light of how bad this team is for significant stretches. Ward entertains me as a football player, and seems to be making strides. Others might disagree, but he’s certainly some kind of bright spot for an otherwise bad team.