San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley spoke to the media during OTAs and discussed many things, including the inportance of Jimmie Ward’s role at free safety. He has nicknamed his position “The Eraser” because he can make troubled defensive plays look not as bad. Ward has taken no snaps at corner during the offseason, focusing solely on his role at safety. Hafley first discussed Ward’s enthusiasm:
He loves it. I think you can put Jimmie anywhere and I think he’d embrace it. That's just the type of kid and person he is. Great attitude, great work ethic. All he wants to do is win, all he wants to out there and play. When we talked about it, he was “Coach, whatever you need.” That’s the type of guys you want on your team.
Hafley also explained how important Ward’s role is to the success of the defense as a whole.
It’s very important. We call it ‘the eraser’ because when bad things happen, he needs to erase it and make sure it’s not really bad. He's got a lot on his shoulders back there but he’s more than capable.
Does Ward’s play determine how aggressive the rest of the defense can play?
No. Everybody’s got to be aggressive, but like the rest of them he’s got to do his job. Unfortunately, when he doesn’t do his job, alll of you guys will notice it a lot more, and everybody in the stadium will see it a lot more. So it might stand out, but it’s all equal. Everybody has their part.
Hafley also discussed what qualities a great safety needs to play single high:
You gotta be a great tackler because if the ball busts through, he's got to be able to get him down. You gotta be able to run, you gotta be able to go sideline to sideline and you have to have pretty good instincts. He’s got to be able to see things and go make plays. That’s what the great ones do. So we’re going to let him play ball back there, coach him up and I think he’s going to be a good one.
Ward played safety during his college career at NIU and sees being vocal as one of the most important parts about his transition back. He will be a key communicator during plays and teammate Rashard Robinson thinks it’s a natural role for Ward.
I’m comfortable with him back there. I trust him. I know Jimmie’s a ball player. He’s there to fill the eraser position.