SANTA CLARA — Three practices into training camp and 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward is healthy.
That’s a positive step for their 2014 top draft pick who’s career has been hit with one injury after another.
Ward, of course, did not participate in the first three practices because he was on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list. Instead, he worked with trainers on his individual conditioning — doing sprints behind the end zone, for instance — to prove he was in shape after re-fracturing his collar bone two months ago.
So what to expect from a healthy Ward?
He won’t be just thrown into full-contact drills. The 49ers plan to ease him in at free safety so he can participate in walk-through sessions and simply be more involved in on-field matters.
In his absence, the first-string free safety has been Adrian Colbert, who opened last season in that role and struggled in coverage and to make hard-hitting plays that won him the job as a seventh-round rookie. Colbert hasn’t made any eye-opening plays yet in camp, other than allowing a 70-yard touchdown to Richie James on Monday.
Tarvarius Moore got switched from cornerback to safety (his college position at Southern Miss) and has looked quite capable there. There’s a month to figure out the depth chart but getting Ward involved so early in camp is a positive for the 49ers defense, even if the so-called “Eraser” spot isn’t as pivotal as billed in 2017.
Look, the fan base loves to grate on Ward because of his durability, or, more specifically, his reliability, because some of his injuries came via fractures from playing so dang hard.
That hard-nose style plus Ward’s versatility enticed team brass to re-sign him early in free agency on a one-year, $4.5 million deal with $3 million guaranteed.
Ward is well-liked among defensive backs and team officials. He’s been one of their best defenders, at least when utilized at safety rather than as a converted, outside cornerback.
His medical chart includes ailments such as broken foot, strained quadriceps, sprained ankle, concussion, forearm fracture and, in the most recent incident at the start of spring workouts, a re-broken collar bone.
Tuesday, his health report was this: cleared for activity.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk won’t practice today after injuring his foot Monday. Also out: RB Jeff Wilson (calf), G Joshua Garnett (knee), RB Jerick McKinnon (PUP; knee), C Weston Richburg (PUP; knee) and TE Garrett Celek (PUP; back)