Jimmie Ward wasn't the only cornerback making a return to practice for the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday.
Ward was joined by rookie Will Redmond, the team's third-round draft pick out of Mississippi State. Redmond was placed on Injured Reserve at the start of the regular season, but the 49ers opened up a 21-day practice window for the rookie as the franchise's designated player to return off IR. Redmond has a roster exemption and doesn't count against the team's 53-man roster limit.
The 6-foot, 186-pound cornerback suffered a torn ACL at the end of his college career. He did, however, take part in training camp practices and played sparingly in the preseason.
"Back in camp I felt good, but now I feel great," Redmond said. "To have that time off, it let me be more of myself."
So how did Day 1 go for the rookie defender?
"It felt good to get back out there," Redmond said after his first on-field session of the regular season. "Throughout the whole process, I've been with the team in and out of meetings, so just getting back out there to touch the field again just felt good."
If all goes well, Redmond is eligible to play at home in Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 6. After the 21-day period, San Francisco must decide to either place Redmond on the 53-man roster or keep him on IR for the rest of 2016.
With Chris Davis being placed on IR last week with a season-ending injury, the 49ers are in need of more depth at slot cornerback. Redmond played the role primarily in the preseason.
"Chris did a great job when he was on the field," Redmond said. "He was showing me what I needed to do and what not to do. When he went down, it hurt the team, but everybody has to pick up responsibilities. I'll take what he taught me and try to learn from it."
For Redmond, the three-week practice opportunity will be about reacclimating himself to the speed of NFL football.
"I'm going to just take it a day at a time and try to get better every day," Redmond said. "I'm trying to get the chemistry back on with my teammates."
Watching San Francisco lose five consecutive games was a humbling experience for the rookie. It also served as motivation for if and when his number gets called.
Redmond credited his support system for helping get through the challenging times of missing the start of his professional career.
"Everybody asked me if I'm getting better – coaches, players, family members – everybody has been on my side," the rookie said. "I've just been working every day."