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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Jimmie Ward: 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan said DB could “ride the bench” if he didn’t want to play nickel

Feb 1, 2023 at 10:09 AM--


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Defensive back Jimmie Ward was never one to hold back. He is scheduled to become a free agent after playing nickel in the San Francisco 49ers defense this season, a move from his previous and preferred safety spot.

Ward started the season on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury, missing the first four games. Then, he suffered a broken hand after returning in Week 5, missing the next game.

Strong play by safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson forced the 49ers to use Ward at the nickel cornerback position. However, the defensive back has made it clear he always preferred playing safety and even requested the 49ers move him back to his natural position.

That obviously did not happen.

"When I told Coach Kyle, I said, 'Hey Coach Kyle.' I was like, 'Put me back at my position. I want to play safety,'" Ward said via an Instagram story shared by OurSF49ers. "He looked at me—you know, Coach Kyle laid back, he cool—he was like, 'What 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."


In November, Shanahan said he felt that Ward might actually prefer playing at the nickel spot rather than safety.

"Jimmie likes being up there in the mix," Shanahan said. "I think he gets a little bit bored back there deep. It's his style in terms of play, but it's not totally his personality. Now he's up there where he can scrap it up in the run game and get on guys in the pass game and really challenge guys."

In 2020, before re-signing with the 49ers on a three-year deal, Ward made it clear that he preferred playing safety over any cornerback position. So obviously, moving to nickel was not his first choice.

"I'm just going to do what the coaches tell me to do," Ward said in October. "It's my last year on the contract. I'm just trying to be a great team player. ... It's a challenge. ... I can't wish I was back at safety. So I go out there and play, man. I don't have room to hope or wish and this and that. I've just got to go out there and give it my all."



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