San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward landed on the PUP list early in training camp. Niner Noise breaks down what this means and what the possible implications could be.
The San Francisco 49ers suffered a minor setback on Friday, losing free safety Jimmie Ward to a hamstring injury.
Ward suffered the injury during a conditioning test when training camp opened on Thursday, and the team elected to place him on the physically unable-to-perform list Friday morning.
There are a number of ways to read into this.
San Francisco 49ers
First, Ward has seemingly gotten a grasp on his new position, according to a report from ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. It’s important to note Ward played free safety in college and is relatively familiar with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s Cover 3 system.
But that’s just one part of the scenario.
What else might be facing the Niners with Ward’s future uncertain?
A Precautionary Move
As noted, Ward is probably well adjusted to his new role. Training camp may not offer too much for Ward leading up to the regular season, so it makes sense the Niners are embracing the more cautious route here.
Once a player participates in training camp, he can’t be placed on the PUP list. So doing this now, instead of risking bigger injury, makes sense. Ward can also return at any time.
According to Joe Fann of 49ers.com, Niners brass doesn’t think the hamstring injury is too serious anyway:
“It’s unfortunate for him and for us, obviously,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said, via 49ers Webzone. “He tweaked it halfway through it. We don’t think it was a full pull or anything but we want to be smart and safe with it. You never know with those things how long they’ll take but don’t think it’s anything too serious but we’re definitely going to be safe with it.”
This would be the best-case scenario for San Francisco.
Long-Term Injury Issues for Jimmie Ward
While I’m no medical expert, I’ve covered enough sports to know hamstring injuries can be tricky things.
A minor tweak can go away in a few days’ time. Yet other serious hamstring injuries can last months, even longer. Heck, wide receiver Bruce Ellington was lost for the season a year ago due to a hamstring issue.
Ward doesn’t have the best health record either. A foot injury limited him to just eight games his rookie season. And a shoulder problem forced Ward to play in just 11 games in 2016.
If it is a long-term issue, Ward might be relegated to being one of those players simply not capable of staying on the field on a regular basis.
And that’s a problem.
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If Ward’s injury winds up being an elongated issue, how would the Niners go about filling the void?
The best option would be strong safety Eric Reid, who assumed the free safety role each year, previously, after being drafted back in 2013. Assuming this is what San Francisco does, third-year pro Jaquiski Tartt likely winds up being the strong safety.
According to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News, Tartt filled in for Ward with the first-team unit during the 49ers’ Friday practices. Still, Reid is likely the better fit.
But Reid has injury concerns of his own, missing six games last year.
It’s also possible the Niners work in undrafted free-agent Lorenzo Jerome in this position.
Jerome is promising. Yet the fact he has zero NFL experience and comes from a small-school program (St. Francis) works against him, especially considering the importance of a free safety in Saleh’s defense.
At any rate, Ward’s injury isn’t a good sign. But it’s not necessarily a worst-case scenario either.
We’ll keep you posted on any updates about Ward’s condition as news comes in.