Jimmie Ward Could Start at Safety vs. Rams with Jaquiski Tartt Doubtful

With one Mobile, Ala., native ailing, another appears likely to take his place.

On Friday's game status report, Jaquiski Tartt (knee) was listed as doubtful for the San Francisco 49ers season finale against the St. Louis Rams.

Tartt, the team's second-round pick this year, has started eight games as a rookie and has played every defensive snap since Week 12. He first showed up on the injury report as a limited participant on Wednesday before sitting out entirely on Thursday. Tartt was again limited on Friday.

If Tartt is unable to play on Sunday, his best friend, Jimmie Ward, will likely fill in at strong safety. Although he played safety in high school and college, it would mark Ward's first-ever NFL start at the position.

"I expect the quarterback to look at me the majority of the time to see if I'm going to give a look away," Ward told reporters on Friday. "Because, you know, it's my first time playing safety. I'm pretty sure he'll hear about that.

"And I'm pretty sure they're going to try me and take a couple shots… I'm looking forward to it."

In the first three games of December, Ward graded out as the NFL's top cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. He has amassed 13 tackles, one sack and one pick-six in his last four outings overall.

"I just really feel like I'm executing what the coach is looking for," said Ward, a first-round pick in 2014. "I've been able to make plays. Am I where I want to be? No, nowhere close to where I want to be. ... I just have to keep working."

As for Tartt, if his year is done, the 23-year-old will finish his rookie campaign with 65 tackles, three pass breakups, two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.

"I'm trying to take it day-by-day and see how it feels," Tartt said. "If I'm not able to go, I'm not able to go."

Tartt added that Keith Reaser would rotate in to play nickel cornerback if Ward is pressed into duty at safety.

Elsewhere on the injury front, both defensive lineman Quinton Dial (back) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite (ankle) were ruled out for Sunday's game. Offensive lineman Marcus Martin (concussion) was listed as doubtful.

For the Rams, breakout star rookie running back Todd Gurley (foot) was listed as doubtful. He ran for 133 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries versus the 49ers on Nov. 1. 

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