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Jimmie Ward Embracing Role as 'The Eraser' in 49ers Secondary

Jimmie Ward's first three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers have been a game of musical chairs. The defensive back has split his time at both the nickel and outside cornerback position, while dabbling at safety.

But this time around, Ward wears a new hat as a full-time safety in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's 4-3 defense.

Thus far, early evaluations have been positive and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley believes Ward fits the bill.

"We call it the 'eraser'," Hafley said. "When bad things happen, he needs to erase it and make sure it's not really bad. He's got a lot on his shoulders back there but he's more than capable."

The switch to San Francisco's "eraser" is by no means foreign to the vet. The 49ers drafted Ward as a safety out of Northern Illinois University in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

So, Ward knows what comes with the territory.

"Transitioning from corner to safety is about communication," Ward said. "That's one of my key factors going into this year right now. I have to be loud and vocal."

View the top images from Wednesday as the 49ers took the field for the fifth day of organized team activities.

Ward will fill the single-high safety role, comparable to Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks - a position he'll get to take on what he enjoys most.

"One of my biggest key factors being in the NFL so far is tackling," Ward said. "It's something I'm pretty good at."

Over the last three seasons, Ward has appeared in 35 games with 18 starts, totaling 20 passes defended, two interceptions and 107 career tackles.

"He loves it," Hafley said of Ward's move to safety. "I think you can put Jimmie anywhere and I think he'd embrace it. That's just the type of kid and person he is. Great attitude, great work ethic. All he wants to do is win. All he wants to do is go out there and play and make plays."

The 49ers showed confidence in Ward's versatility in the secondary, picking up his fifth-year option while formulating the switch.

Ward will get plenty of reps to hone his craft over the final two weeks of OTAs and into training camp. His role will be a vital component to Hafley's secondary.

"When we talked about it, he was, 'coach, whatever you need.' That's the type of guys you want on the team," Hafley added. "And I think he's going to be a good one."

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