Top things we learned at 49ers HQ on Wednesday – The Mercury News

SANTA CLARA — Jimmie Ward’s collection of broken bones and strained muscle seemed to embody the 49ers’ pain and suffering since his 2014 arrival. Times are different. Ward is healthy, he’s making plays and the 49ers are off to a 5-0 start.

Sweet redemption?

“No. We haven’t proved anything,” Ward said Wednesday. “I’ve only played in two games. We’re 5-0, that’s cool, but we still haven’t done anything yet.

“Maybe if you catch me later on in the season and we’re in the playoffs and we win some playoffs games, then I may have a better answer for you.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 13: Wide receiver Robert Woods #17 of the Los Angeles Rams gets into the end zone for a touchdown past cornerback Jimmie Ward #20 of the San Francisco 49ers with some help from tight end Gerald Everett #81 of the Los Angeles Rams in the first quarter of the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) 

Ward finished four of the past five seasons on injured reserve. Sunday, he finished off the Los Angeles Rams with back-to-back pass breakups on third and fourth down, after making a fourth-down tackle on the previous series.

Those plays sealed a 20-7 win for a 49ers team that next plays Sunday at Washington (1-5). Kyle Shanahan was so moved by Ward’s effort Sunday (and over the years) that the coach said afterward he’d wear Ward’s jersey on the sideline if he could.

Instead, Ward is wearing No. 20 quite well after sitting out the first three games because of finger surgery. Upon replacing Tarvarius Moore as the starting free safety, Ward relishes this new scheme that allows him to either play deep or come up in the box as a hard-hitting tackler — too hard, in some previous cases.

“That’s why I’m hurting, because I’m working,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t get hurt if I wasn’t working, if I wasn’t putting it all out on the line. I’d come out with no nicks and bruises. … I’ve been playing hard, I’ve been breaking bones without people (praising) me, with people telling me I’m a bust and I suck.”

A finger injury a few days before this season’s opener resulted in surgery, delaying what’s been a positive start that’s drawn fans’ cheers. “It was amazing to see Jimmie out there balling,” DeForest Buckner said. “It’s not a surprise, though, with Jimmie out there making big plays. He’s done that out there since I was a rookie. It’s hard to say but he hasn’t had the opportunity a lot because he’s been hurt.”

Ward re-signed in March on a one-year, $4.5 million deal, the first offer in free agency he received. He did not want to go elsewhere, “not with the type of people we have in here and around the building,” Ward said. “I knew what we have and I knew what Kyle was going after in the draft.”

SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 7: San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan coaches from the sidelines during their game against the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

UPROARIOUS SHANAHAN PRESSER

Shanahan’s play calling and leadership has been on point this season, and so was his humor at Wednesday’s post-practice press conference. It began with him recalls his 2010-13 stint on Washington’s coaching staff with his father, Mike.

What was the best part about coaching in Washington? “Um, being able to work with my dad and being around some other good coaches,” Shanahan said.

What was the worst part? “Everything else,” Shanahan replied.

Shanahan had other gems that incited laughter, though he balanced things out with X’s-and-O’s football talk and gave politically correct respect to Washington’s upset potential.

Shanahan played bad cop earlier Wednesday when he showed the 49ers their collection of bad plays in Sunday’s win at Los Angeles, after showing off their good plays in Monday’s film review.

“You can watch that in a different light and see it’s three plays away from getting out of hand and going the other way, so you always want to put that perspective back in players’ minds so you never relax,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan noted that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s demeanor, as opposed to Sunday’s sideline celebrations, is Gandhi-like as a “peaceful giant.” Told that Saleh has an “extreme violence” motto, Shanahan noted, “He just wears a bracelet on it. It’s not like it’s tatted on his face.”

Saleh said after the game he “blacks out” during the heat of battle, to which Shanahan said he does, too, adding: “You try not to black out as a coach. Players do it, too. I’ll mess with Sherm: I think he’s done it at the coin toss the last couple weeks. It happens to all of us.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 13: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers and Kwon Alexander #56 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrate their 20-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams on the phone on their way into the locker room at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) 

KITTLE’S WASHINGTON ENCORE

Tight end George Kittle has come a long way since his 2017 rookie year, and that struck him this week as he reviewed film of the 49ers’ last trip to Washington, an Oct. 15 loss in which he had four receptions (46 yards) while also filling in for injured fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

“I was just watching my performance against the Redskins two years ago and it was awful, it was not very good,” Kittle said. “That was being a rookie and not understanding everything.”

Kittle, after a record-setting 2018 season, has a team-high 31 receptions for a run-oriented 49ers offense that is flourishing in Shanahan’s third season. “Guys are understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing and just connecting the dots,” Kittle said. “… It’s a big puzzle, and once all the pieces are working together, it looks pretty beautiful.”

SOLOMON STAYS HUMBLE

Defensive tackle Solomon Thomas wouldn’t call Sunday’s outing his career best, though it seemed that way with his second sack of the year and a 25-snap workload after back-to-back games of just 11 snaps. “I’m at the best place of my career right now, and just try to build off that, and be the best player I can be in my career and in my life right now,” said Thomas, a third-year reserve and the 2017 No. 3 overall draft pick.

HEALTH CENTER

Not practicing Wednesday were tight end George Kittle (groin), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin), nose tackle D.J. Jones (hamstring), running back Raheem Mostert (knee strain) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (rest day), along with the quartet that Shanahan ruled out — cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (knee), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (knee) and offensive tackles Joe Staley (fibula) and Mike McGlinchey (knee).

McGlinchey and Juszczyk proudly taped to their lockers the artistic, get-well cards given to them by Staley’s daughter Grace. That helped McGlinchey take the sting off watching Sunday’s game on television at home with his mother after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday.

McGlinchey called it a “pretty tough deal” to miss his first career game, “but at least they’re showing up and showing out and kicking butt. That’s all you can ask for.”

 


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