The curious case of Jimmie Ward continues. Thanks to the San Francisco 49ers picking up his fifth-year option last offseason, the defensive back will earn $8.5 million in 2018 — and we're not sure which position he will play. Ward's salary makes him the sixth-highest paid player on the roster this season, and he probably won't even be a starter.

Ward is being tried everywhere on defense. He has experience at safety and outside and nickel corner spots. This offseason, Ward was receiving a lot of work at cornerback. He could be the first player off the bench if there is an injury at any of the defensive back positions. Ward even received a little bit of work at linebacker, according to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

"It still goes back to what we preach and what Kyle preaches every single day," Saleh said on Thursday. "The best 11 players will play no matter what and that's what we're striving for. So, we're experimenting with different things all across the board to see the best way to deploy our best 11 so we can get off the field and get the ball back to our offense."

Ward being so versatile is fantastic for the 49ers defense. There is only one problem. The defensive back has missed the last two practices with a hamstring injury. That wouldn't be a big deal if it were any other player, but 49ers fans are probably getting frustrated seeing Ward's name on injury lists.

Ward's 2017 season ended with a broken forearm suffered during a Week 8 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles after he had already missed much of last year's training camp with a hamstring injury. Ward missed part of the 2016 season with a quad strain and then saw his season end early due to a shoulder injury. A quad injury and stress fracture forced him to miss much of his rookie season.

When on the field, Ward has proven to be a very good player. He just needs to stay on the field. Saleh remains excited about his injury-plagued defensive back.

"He's a very, very good football player," Saleh said. "Fortunately, I think he's going (to practice) tomorrow. The injury was more almost like precaution more than anything. He's definitely got a role on this team and it's going to be pretty cool.

"I'm excited about Jimmie because he is one of our more violent and smartest players. Everybody in the organization loves him so I'm not overly concerned, especially when you're dealing in camp and he's always been a soft tissue guy.

"Once we start getting in the preseason games and things slow down just a little bit, really not concerned about him getting injured as much as excited about what he can bring to our defense."



Another player who always seems to be injured is defensive end Arik Armstead. He appeared on Tuesday morning's injury report. Like Ward, Armstead sustained a hamstring injury, which seems more serious because he is listed as week-to-week.

Also like Ward, the 49ers invested in Armstead's fifth-year option, which will keep him under contract through 2019.

Armstead is coming off of a shortened 2017 season. He broke his hand during the first quarter of a Week 6 matchup against the Washington Redskins and was placed on injured reserve on October 17, 2017. While Armstead wanted to continue playing with a cast over his hand, team doctors determined it wasn't an option with the type of injury he suffered.

Armstead's 2016 campaign also ended on injured reserve. He played in just eight games with four starts before a nagging shoulder injury and surgery finished his season.

"Anyone who's missing reps right now is missing valuable time," Saleh said. "I don't want to confuse that part. Even for Jimmie, if you're not getting your practice reps, someone's going to pass you up. But, at the same time, those guys are doing a great job in walkthroughs and meetings and making sure they're getting all of their mental reps so that when they do come back, they won't skip a beat."