49ers’ Jimmie Ward reveals story behind positional switch on IG Live

Feb 1, 2023, 4:01 PM

| Updated: Feb 2, 2023, 6:55 am
Jimmie Ward #1 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after breaking up a pass during the second quarter...

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 11: Jimmie Ward #1 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after breaking up a pass during the second quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers are less than a week into its’ offseason and a lot has happened. From quarterback Brock Purdy tearing his UCL to Nick Bosa’s looming contract extension, this spring/summer will be fun of storylines. Then there’s Jimmie Ward.

The longtime 49ers’ safety/cornerback went on Instagram Live Tuesday night, breaking down the 2023 season for San Francisco and a few other things. One of them was his switch to the nickel-cornerback position after coming into the regular season injured.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco signed veteran safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. toward the end of training camp after it was revealed that Ward would miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury. Upon his return, the 49ers decided to move him to the slot, a position he had to adjust to on the fly.

After the season was over, Ward asked Shanahan about moving back to his original role in the defense. His coach’s response shook the 32-year-old veteran quite a bit.

“I said, ‘Hey Coach Kyle, put me back at my position. I want to play safety,’ ” Ward recalled Tuesday night. “He looked back and was like, ‘What do you want to do, dude? Do you want to ride the bench?’

“I was like, ‘Oh, s–t.’ This man just told me do I want to ride the bench. Knowing me, I said, ‘Yeah, just put me on special teams because I’d be a good special teams player.’ ”

Laughing about the situation afterward, Ward quickly realized that his position may have already been filled for the next few years.

“Bro, he told me, ‘Do you want to ride the bench?’ He let me know right there my spot was gone,” Ward stated.

With the emergence of All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga, Ward may have to look for another opening in free agency this spring.

Although, the 49ers are open to a return for their 2014 draft pick, just at the NCB position. If the Northern Illinois product does decide to return to the Bay, San Francisco could make him the highest-paid player at that position.

“So my position coach come talk to me, and he hit me with ‘hey man, we can make you the highest-paid [nickel-cornerback],” Ward explained.

Being the savvy vet that he is, Jimmie Ward quickly figured out that would be a significant reduction in pay based on position. The highest-paid slot corner makes close to $9 million per season, while the highest-paid safety makes about $19 million.

Going into his 10th NFL season, Ward understands the game within the game in the NFL, explaining the psychology behind negotiating Tuesday.

“This NFL stuff is a game within the game,” Ward said. “And I only know how to be real about it. Like, sometimes I show my hand, sometimes I don’t. I let them know I wouldn’t mind staying here, but I told him I was like, man, basically, that’s the same money that y’all trying to pay me for the safety money. Because if you look at the highest-paid nickel, it’s that number, which I’m not going to get into numbers, but if you’re going to look it up, y’all can put two and two [together].”

Scheduled to become a free agent next month, Jimmie Ward will look for the best fit, financially, for him. Still respectful as ever, he thanked The Faithful for all the years of appreciation, hoping for a return with the 49ers, but not ruling out other possibilities as well.

“Whatever decision I’m gonna make, I think it’s gonna be the best team. Obviously, it’s gonna have to do [somewhat] with the finances obviously, but I’m gonna choose the best team. Hopefully it’s with the 49ers but if it’s not, I got much love for y’all, respect y’all and I appreciate y’all for giving me a warm welcome since I’ve been out here, looking out for me and helping me out along the way,” Ward said to wrap up the livestream.


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