Jimmie Ward is in competition with Tarvarius Moore for the San Francisco 49ers' starting free safety job.

Or is he?

Ward took part in his first full practice this week since fracturing his collarbone in May. Then he suited up and showed off his versatility on Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ward played both free safety and nickel cornerback during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium, and finished the night with three tackles and even drew an offensive pass-interference penalty.

Ward played nickel because regular slot man, K'Waun Williams, is out with a knee injury. It's an injury that could run into the regular season so Ward's versatility might be an asset for the 49ers, assuming he can stay healthy himself. He hasn't had much luck in that department in the past. Ward has landed on injured reserve in four of his five NFL seasons.

The 49ers seem impressed with Moore's development at safety after playing him at cornerback during his rookie year. Moore entered the game at free safety when Ward moved to the nickel spot.

After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed Ward's versatility and play against the Chiefs.

"Jimmie's a football player," Shanahan told reporters. "It doesn't matter whether he's hurt or how long he's been out. When you allow him to go, he's going. He's been that way in practice all week.

"I know we threw him out there today, and I think he was able to play both nickel and free safety. From what I saw, he played pretty well."

Linebacker Kwon Alexander, who made his 49ers debut on Saturday night, was also impressed with Ward.

"Jimmie from [Alabama]," Alexander said after the game. "Bama boys, we ball. I know Jimmie's a dog. He's going to go out there and do his thing. He showed up today."

Shanahan indicated that maybe Ward's role this season, at least at the start, might not be as a safety after all, especially if Williams isn't ready to go for Week 1.

"The good thing about Jimmie, and it's also been a tough thing for him throughout his whole career, he's sometimes the best or second-best player at every single position, depending on what personnel is out there on offense," Shanahan continued. "You've got an option to put him at a lot of places. We definitely want to put him at safety, but we have had some injuries, and his injury opened up some room for Tarvarius. I know those two are competing in that area.

"We're going to have our best guys on the field, and you have a lot of options with Jimmie."

It sure sounds like Shanahan and the coaches might consider utilizing Ward's versatility this season, move him to another position, and let Moore take over the free safety spot.