SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After missing every preseason game and only participating on a limited basis in a few practices recently, San Francisco 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward's status for the regular-season opener remains up in the air.
"That’s still fluid," general manager John Lynch said on Saturday. "I was watching Jimmie outside my window here earlier going through a great workout. We’re going to do what’s right for Jimmie and what’s right for the team in terms of Week 1. We’ll update you guys as we know. To be perfectly honest, we don’t know that right now."
Ward, who suffered a hamstring injury during the team's conditioning test on July 27, came off the physically-unable-to-perform list before the third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. But Ward didn't play in that game or the exhibition finale against the Los Angeles Chargers.
In a pregame workout in Minnesota, Ward appeared to have some issues with the hamstring -- though coach Kyle Shanahan later told reporters that the team's medical staff said Ward simply had some scar tissue breaking up when running.
With Ward out for the entire preseason, the Niners got a longer look at a variety of options. Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome stepped in and got the most work, earning a roster spot in the process. Jaquiski Tartt, who was the first to step in for Ward but missed time with a rib injury, actually started the final preseason contest in Ward's place.
Jerome and Tartt would likely be the top options to replace Ward if he isn't ready to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Complicating matters further for Ward is the fact that all the missed time has left him with very little opportunity to work in new coordinator Robert Saleh's defense and adjust to his new position.
Although Ward played safety in college, it's been years since he did it and Saleh's system asks a lot of the free safety, who is often left as the long deep safety in the scheme.
One way or the other, the Niners' hope is that their patience with Ward will yield a long-term contributor, even if he isn't ready to go right away.
"He’s pushing, he’s doing everything he can and our trainers are doing a great job with him to try to get him back and healthy," Lynch said. "We want to make sure that when he comes back, he’s back for good."