San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss being the longest-tenured 49er, how he can improve as a player, who will take the next step in their development, and much more.
With Staley gone, do you feel like you’re the old man in the room, or how does that strike you?
It’s really surprising. I didn’t realize that until the media started blowing it up. I actually don’t feel any different. I have Sherm in my DB room, and I feel like he’s the oldest guy in the league, and that’s on this team. I feel like it’s a big deal being able to say I’m the longest-tenured player on the 49ers, and I think it’s awesome.
Can you confirm which team offered you more money in free agency and what it was about the Niners that made you want to go ahead and stay?
I can’t confirm that team for you, sorry about that. I will say this about the Niners. It’s the place that I’m comfortable with. This is the place that drafted me, and I know the guys and have built relationships with them, so that’s one reason I wanted to stay. I saw the money, and the Niners came out with a decent amount of money that I was comfortable with, so I decided to stay.
During free agency, you said Tarvarius Moore should be the safety to replace you. At that point, did you feel like you’d be going to another team?
You know, anything is possible in the NFL. When it comes to the business side, you never know what will happen. I knew it would be other teams that would have more money than the 49ers. I had to put it out there [about Moore being his replacement] because the media started blowing up this guy and this guy and I’m a player, so II know what the 49ers are looking for, and we already have that in the building.
Do you feel like you won’t miss a beat on defense with the new guys coming in?
I feel like Defo is a tough loss. He was a big part of that defense last year. I feel like Kyle and John did a great job in the draft getting Bucks replacement. Nobody’s like Buck. I feel like we’re still loaded on the defensive front, and we’ll be just fine. Right now, it’s a bunch of talking. You’ll see Game 1.
At this stage in your career, can you take your game to the next level, and if so, what’s the next step for you?
I’m thinking turnovers. I’m only getting better. I’m looking back on my career, and I just see all the different positions I played, different coaches each year, different playbooks, that hurt me. Not to mention injuries. That definitely hurt me. Anytime you’re not on the field, you can’t get better if you’re on the sideline, just by me playing 16 games that got me so much better. On top of that, I feel like I can get a lot more turnovers. The new DB coach, Coach Toney, I like some of his techniques and ways he thinks I can get more involved instead of sitting back there in the post [deep safety] or covering a guy man-to-man, they’re going to get me more involved in the defense.
Why do you think it’s worked out for you, with everything that’s gone on, that you’ve remained with the 49ers for this long?
It’s a mindset. Throughout your career, you’re going to go through some type of adversity. What gets you through that type of adversity is the mindset. I’ve been through a lot, but everybody’s been through a lot. You’ve got guys that are undrafted, like Raheem Mostert. Piggybacking on him, look what he’s been through and how many teams he’s jumped around to. He just had this great year last year, and now he has a starting role on offense, and he’s our top guy on special teams. Just like Sherm, he was at the top of his game, and next thing you know, he has an Achilles’ tear. Me, Quaski. It’s just your mindset. Not quitting when you get your first bump in the road and being able to persevere through that.
When you talk about taking your game to the next level and creating more turnovers, what have you been doing as far as working out, studying, to get you there?
Taking care of my body. Eating healthy and just stretching. Making sure I don’t have any soft tissue, I’m trying to avoid soft tissue injuries, breaking bones, and this and that, hopefully, I stay healthy, but that happens—soft tissue injuries I can avoid that. I do yoga and just working out and making sure I stay conditioned and putting the right things in my body. Different types of drills, too, just to stay on it. Whenever we get that phone call, I don’t know when we’ll report back, but whenever we do, I should be ready.
Last year Fred Warner took the leap to stardom, who on the defense do you think will take that leap this year?
I feel like Kwon will have a great year. I feel like Dre Greenlaw will have a great year. It’s so many guys. E-Man [Emmanuel Moseley] will have a great year. It’s so many guys that I can just name because of our chemistry. Last year was my first year seeing that chemistry with everybody. Every year some of the coaches or players will come out and say how great the chemistry is, but I feel you can tell the chemistry by winning games, and that’s what we did.