SANTA CLARA – Starting cornerback Tramaine Brock has set his sights on the role Jimmie Ward won at the beginning of his rookie season.
In addition to his starting job at left cornerback, Brock wants to move inside to cover the slot receiver on nickel situations. Ward is just now entering the competition this summer. The 49ers are taking the cautious approach with Ward due to concerns about making too swift of a return from a broken foot that ended his rookie season.
Ward saw his first 11-on-11 practice Tuesday since the opening of training camp. He saw action with the third-team defense at safety.
Ward has designs on returning to the role for which he was drafted: Covering the opponent's slot receiver in passing situations. Brock recently his expressed his desire to handle that role.
“It’s competition,” Ward said. “It’s football. If he can take the spot, he can have it. I’m trying to fit my way in somewhere to help the defense.”
Ward, a first-round draft pick last year, saw action in eight games before sustaining his season-ending injury. He had already undergone surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot when the 49ers drafted him. The screw bent during a game against the New Orleans Saints, resulting in a re-fracture of his foot.
Ward sat out the entire offseason program and is now outfitted with a custom-made plastic clasp that fits around his foot on the inside of the shoe in hopes it will prevent further injuries. The 49ers wanted to make sure that he gets accustomed to the device.
“We just want to take it slow,” Ward said. “Just listening to the trainers right now, not pushing it. We’re trying to get to Game 1. Right now, it’s just the second preseason game.”
Said 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, “It was nice to see him yesterday, wasn’t it? What you saw in practice, those actions can tell you his mindset. Jimmie had a nice practice. A lot of that stuff was just getting used to that shoe.”