Jimmie Ward has seen it all in his time with the 49ers. Drafted in the final year of the Jim Harbaugh/Trent Baalke regime, Ward has worn the scarlet and gold through good times and bad (and not in that order). Yesterday on KNBR, Ward made it sound like this season will be his last with the team.
“Obviously I’m going to free agency, but...well, yeah, I’m going to free agency. The 49ers haven’t offered me anything but I just feel like [playing nickel corner] just takes my value up.
I’m out here playing nickel at a high level, and last year I was playing safety at a high level. They know I can play safety, I can play strong or free. Now I can play nickel. How many safeties can play nickel and safety? That can legitimately cover? Like, I’m out here covering number one wide receivers.
At the end of the day, you’re gonna have to consider my name as one of the top players coming to free agency.”
The emergence of Talanoa Hufanga and the combination of Ward’s age, injury history, and cost, likely spell the end of his time with the 49ers. If this year is the end, it will cap one of the more remarkable careers in team history and one that just isn’t seen that much around the league.
During his nine-year career with the Niners, Ward has survived two general managers, four head coaches, and five different defensive coordinators. The fact that he has remained on the team through all of that turnover is incredible. Especially considering that Ward missed about a third of his potential games with injuries over his first three seasons and changed positions multiple times (including this season).
“I had to fight each year, I had to survive each year because a lot of the times these GMs and these head coaches, they want the players that they drafted, they want the players that they bring in in free agency, they want them to prosper and do good in their defense because that’s their guy.
To be able to weather the storm and fight when I had all these four different head coaches, three or four different defensive schemes, and each year they want to envision me as a new guy at a different position? To be able to go through that and fight through that and still continue to stay on the team and earn new coaches’ and GMs’ respect? It’s crazy.
Not too many guys can sit there and can last in the NFL on the same team. Some guys be out the league if you gotta keep switching positions. Not to mention I got hurt plenty of times. I was able to get hurt and still the team was like, ‘Okay, even though he’s hurt when he gets back he’s still one of the best players that we have on the team.’
It’s a lot of hard work, I’ll tell you that.”
He won’t get the praise he deserves outside of the 49ers’ building, and certainly not from the national media, but Jimmie Ward has had an incredible NFL career so far. We should all enjoy him while he’s here, and if his San Francisco chapter does end at the end of the year, wish him well wherever he lands next.
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