Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Jimmie Ward has only had limited participation in practice, as he rehabs his foot.
The defensive secondary took another hit when cornerback Eric Wright announced his retirement. That leaves only Tramaine Brock as the only proven cornerback who is not coming off an injury.
GM Trent Baalke selected defensive back Jimmie Ward with the first pick in the recent draft. Although he mostly played safety in college, he does have experience playing as a slot corner, which will be his initial role in San Francisco.
He is coming off foot surgery in March and is currently rehabbing the injury. He has been working out at OTAs and minicamp but has not practiced in the 49ers defense.
As reported by David Fucillo of NinersNation.com, Ward is expected to be fully healthy by the start of training camp. However, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has stated that Ward will be behind because of missing the on-field reps:
You can sit in all these meetings you want, but the best way a players improves is: meet, go practice, come back and meet some more, learn what you did wrong, learn some new things, go practice...He’s not getting any of that practice. He can be practicing mentally in his head all he wants. That only takes you to a certain point. He’s got to go out there and experience it.
Ward will compete with Perrish Cox for the slot corner job, a position that is likely to be on the field for a majority of defensive snaps. His recovery and performance is critical to the 49ers defense, which is already very thin at cornerback.
In the long run, Ward could ultimately be the replacement at safety for Antoine Bethea. However, with the departure of Wright, Ward will be even more focused on his role in the 49ers' nickel package.