First-round draft pick Jimmie Ward’s season is over.
Ward, who was the team’s nickel back through most of the season, sustained a season-ending foot injury in the 49ers’ overtime victory last week over the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers on Saturday placed him on injured reserve.
The 49ers activated outside linebacker Aldon Smith in order for him to play Sunday against the New York Giants. The NFL granted the 49ers’ a temporary roster exemption as Smith returned from a nine-game suspension for violations of the league’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.
Ward played his usual role and did not show any signs of an injury during the game. He played 42 snaps in the team’s nickel package. He was on the field for the final defensive play of the game when Ahmad Brooks forced Drew Brees’ fumble, leading to Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal.
Ward did not practice this week. He was listed as “out” on the 49ers’ official injury report -– typically a sign of a significant injury. Nose tackle Ian Williams, who sustained a fractured fibula, is also listed as out.
Veteran cornerback Perrish Cox will take over Ward’s duties covering the slot receiver for the remainder of the season. Dontae Johnson will be the 49ers' third cornerback on Sunday with Tramaine Brock out with a hamstring injury. Leon McFadden is also likely to be active as the fourth healthy cornerback.
Ward is out for the remainder of the regular season and postseason, if the 49ers advance to the playoffs.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Ward’s injury is to the same foot that kept him out of the 49ers’ offseason program.
Ward said he was not aware he had an injury until the eve of his workout at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. During the physical examination, doctors discovered Ward had a Jones fracture in his right foot. A Jones fracture is the name given to a fracture that occurs to the fifth metatarsal bone in the mid-foot area.
Ward said he has no idea when he sustained the injury because he never knew he had the injury. The 49ers selected the Northern Illinois product with the No. 30 overall pick.
“I have no clue,” Ward said after the 49ers selected him. “I didn’t feel it. I had no symptoms. I didn’t feel anything.”
He was not allowed to work out at the Combine, but he still took part in his pro day at Northern Illinois on March 7. He reportedly ran 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash before undergoing surgery that had a prescribed six- to eight-week recovery period. Ward was cleared to take part in the first practice of training camp.