Ward holds onto 49ers' nickel job with solid debut

Ward holds onto 49ers' nickel job with solid debut
August 9, 2014, 4:15 am
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Jimmie Ward racked up seven interceptions in his final campaign at Northern Illinois. (AP)

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BALTIMORE –- Jimmie Ward opened the exhibition season Thursday night in the spot the 49ers envisioned when they selected him with the No. 30 overall pick.

And he did nothing against the Baltimore Ravens to lose ground in his battle to replace Carlos Rogers as the 49ers’ nickel cornerback.

"I thought he was doing what we saw in practice," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He is aggressive, and he was flying around. I think he's in good shape."

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Ward played 32 snaps and made a couple of tackles from the safety position. He also found himself in coverage in the slot twice against Jacoby Jones. One pass was completed on him for 12 yards on a third-and-5 situation in the first quarter.

Ward said he is happy to get his first NFL exhibition game behind him.

“Yeah, it’ll make it way easier,” Ward said. “Coming against a good team like the Ravens, I think that really helped me out going against a really good slot. Hopefully it shows in the next game.”

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Ward is a backup at safety behind starters Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea. He is the front-runner to enter games in passing situations to cover the slot receiver.

Ward should benefit as much as anyone on the field during three days of practices against the Ravens in Owings Mills, Maryland. Ward is likely to match up against Ravens receiver Steve Smith. The 14-year veteran challenges defenders as much mentally as physically.

“I feel like everybody has to be under control,” Ward said. “But we’re competitors, so everybody’s going to compete because you want to win. It’s going to be like a game all over again.”

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