49ers to give Jimmie Ward long look at CB, provide update on Reuben Foster


49ers to give Jimmie Ward long look at CB, provide update on Reuben Foster

ORLANDO, Fla. – The 49ers have their projected two starting cornerbacks in place.

After that, there are a lot of uncertainties and moving parts.

But one thing has been determined, 49ers general manager John Lynch said on Monday at the NFL owners meetings. Versatile defensive back Jimmie Ward will get a long look at cornerback during the offseason before determining at which position he can help the most.

“Jimmie Ward is a guy who’s played some outside corner in his career,” Lynch said. “We’re going to experiment with that this offseason and see if that’s viable and give him some time there.”

Ward has played a 16-game season just once in his career. In 2015, he started eight of the 16 games in which he appeared as the 49ers’ nickel back. The next season, he was moved to cornerback, where he spent 10 games before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury. Last year, Ward was the 49ers’ starting free safety before his season came to an end after seven games due to a fractured forearm.

Ward is playing this season on the fifth-year option of $8.526 million. It’s a hefty salary, but the 49ers believe Ward’s versatility makes him a valuable commodity. He was seen as a good fit for the 49ers’ system as a free safety. But the 49ers feel as if they have some flexibility with starting-caliber safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert already on the roster.

Therefore, the 49ers want to get a good read on Ward’s skills at cornerback, where Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon are expected to be the starters.

The 49ers are looking to add a veteran player to compete for a backup cornerback spot.

In addition, Greg Mabin is a returning player who figures to be a serious contender for a roster spot. Two days after the Buffalo Bills waived Mabin in October, the 49ers signed him to their practice squad. After his promotion to the 53-man roster in November, Mabin appeared in six games with the 49ers.

“He’s got to continue to develop,” Lynch said. “Unfortunately for him, right when he started to get on the field (last season), he was injured with a calf strain. We feel guys like that are going to have to emerge and step up.”

The 49ers’ offseason program is set to begin April 16. Linebacker Reuben Foster’s status remains unsettled, as the 49ers await a decision from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.

Foster was arrested last month in Los Gatos for alleged domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon. The district attorney’s office has yet to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

“We’re operating on their time line,” Lynch said. “There are dates, but we’re operating on that time line and monitoring it. We’ve been in close contact with him. He’s doing a nice job.”

Regardless of the Santa Clara County DA's decision, the NFL could levy discipline against Foster for possible violations of the league's policies on personal conduct and substances of abuse. Foster was arrested in Alabama this offseason for possession of marijuana.

Before Richard Sherman can be a good off-field influence on the young players on the 49ers’ defense, he must be a good player. And that’s exactly what the 49ers expect from him.

“We still think, when healthy, he’s one of the better corners in this league,” Lyunch said. “That’s what we feel. So now the challenge is getting healthy.”

Sherman is making good progress from surgeries on both feet – one to repair his torn Achilles tendon, the other to remove bone spurs. He said he expects to be cleared for football activity in May or June.

Sherman last week described his contributions to the 49ers as 50-50 – on and off the field. Lynch said Sherman brings a much-needed attitude to the 49ers’ defense.

“One of his greatest qualities is the competitor that he is,” Lynch said. “We believe that’s contagious. We believe our defense needs that. We have a lot of young players that kind of still finding their way. You need somebody with, whatever you call it, that dog. He is a determined, competitive type of guy. And those guys can influence your defense in a great way.”

There are any number of positions the 49ers can go with the No. 9 overall pick. The options are limitless with the first-round draft pick, as the team could consider help at defensive back, edge rusher, inside linebacker, offensive line or wide receiver.

The 49ers are not in the quarterback market, so the presence of a handful of legitimate first-round options, such as Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield could prove to be a benefit for the organization.

“It’s really intriguing with these quarterbacks, and everyone has a different favorite quarterback, to see just what’s going to happen,” Lynch said. “There are going to be so many different possibilities. Fortunately for us, there are a lot of good football players. That process has begun, but it will really develop in earnest here in the next month, which is a sprint.

“We’ll get a better feel for these guys. But there are a lot of options at our disposal. That’s the good thing. But we’re going to have to be well-versed because this thing can go so many different directions.”

A year ago, the 49ers were in the market for a quarterback – even after the signing of veteran Brian Hoyer. Or, at least, that’s the point Lynch wanted to get across to the rest of the NFL.

Lynch was seen across the country at the pro days of Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer. He also led Deshaun Watson through a “semi-private” workout.

As it turned out, the 49ers had no intention of using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. But they were able to trade back one spot with the Chicago Bears, who jumped up to select Trubisky at a hefty price.

“It was a show, but we were also looking for that guy,” Lynch said. “We were looking for someone to say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy you want.’ It was a little bit of both.”

This year, Lynch will not be attending nearly as many pro days. On Thursday, he attended the pro day at his alma mater, Stanford. While the 49ers will have representatives at nearly every pro day, Lynch figures to spend most of his time watching film in Santa Clara.

“It feels like it’s time to hunker down in the office,” he said.

Woman in Reuben Foster case recants domestic violence claim

Woman in Reuben Foster case recants domestic violence claim

The former girlfriend of 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster on Monday said she can prove Foster did not cause her injuries from an alleged February incident in Los Gatos.

Elissa Ennis, the former girlfriend, released a statement through her attorney, Stephanie Rickard, in which she said her injuries came from a fight that did not involve Foster.

“(Foster) did not strike her, injure her or threaten her,” Rickard said in the statement provided first to NBC Sports Bay Area.

Ennis’ injuries were the result of a physical fight with another woman, and that Foster tried to end his relationship with Ennis after he learned of the fight, Rickard said.

There is a video of that fight with another woman, according to Rickard.

“She was extremely upset and told him if he broke up with her she would ‘trash his career,’ ” Rickard said.

Rickard said after Ennis realized what she had done, she went back to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office and tried to recant her previous statement.

When reached Monday by NBC Sports Bay Area, the DA's office declined to comment on the alleged victim's statement.

On April 12, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed formal criminal charges against Foster stemming from a Feb. 11 incident involving his live-in girlfriend in Los Gatos. He faces two charges of domestic violence and one felony charge of possession of an assault weapon.

The DA’s office charged him with domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily harm. The DA’s office said Foster bruised the alleged victim and ruptured her eardrum. She told investigators at the scene that Foster hit her eight to 10 times in the head.

He is also charged with a felony of attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime.

The criminal charges against Foster are based on lies, Ennis now says, according to Rickard.

According to Rickard, “Ennis apologizes to everyone that may have been harmed in this case, especially Mr. Foster."

The 49ers declined to comment Monday because it is an ongoing legal matter, a team spokesman said. 

On Monday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said the club would release Foster if the allegation that he struck the alleged victim proved to be true. Foster remains a member of the team but is not participating in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“We do feel like patience is the right approach right now, that we are going to learn things through this legal process,” Lynch said. “But I do want to be very clear, abundantly clear, that if these charges are proven true, that if Reuben did indeed hit this young lady, he won't be part of our organization going forward.”

Foster’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, 9 a.m.

49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's first-round NFL mock draft

49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's first-round NFL mock draft

1, Cleveland: QB Sam Darnold, USC
New Browns GM John Dorsey has done a nice job of creating some intrigue, but all the names you've heard within the past week are probably only smokescreens.

2, N.Y. Giants: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Eli Manning is 37, and the strong-armed Allen will spend a year as his understudy.

3, N.Y. Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater can step aside for the new guy to take over sooner than later.

4, Cleveland: DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
Chubb teams up with Myles Garrett on the other side to provide a lethal pass rush.

5, Denver: RB Saquan Barkley, Penn State
If Barkley is not here, they will gladly go with Denzel Ward to shore up the secondary.

6, Indianapolis: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The Colts finally supply Andrew Luck with a bodyguard . . . assuming he ever gets healthy enough to benefit from the presence of the draft’s best O-lineman.

7, Tampa Bay: DB Derwin James, Florida State
The Bucs add a defensive back who also gives their poor run defense a lift with his play close to the line of scrimmage.

8, Chicago: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Bears have a lot of options for providing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with some help, but settle on the best cover man.

9, 49ERS: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Versatile. High character. Great leader. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are both entering the final year of their contracts. He fits an immediate need, too. What’s not to like about this pick? With Reuben Foster’s status being uncertain, either Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds would make a lot of sense, too.

10, RAIDERS: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Raiders have a hole in the middle of their defense as NaVorro Bowman remains a free agent. The Raiders finally address what has been a need for several seasons.

11, Miami: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Coach Adam Gase has no issues taking a QB who is strong-willed enough to ask a lot of questions and flash some attitude from time to time.

12, Buffalo: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
If the Bills do not move up to get a quarterback, they can remain right here and get a player who is easily a top-10 defensive talent.

13, Washington: DT Vita Vea, Washington
Oh, Jim Tomsula is going to love working with this huge, athletic presence in the middle of the line.

14, Green Bay: DE Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
He's a unique personality with unique size and athleticism. But he’s going to have to develop more than just a bull rush to get to QBs in the NFL.

15, Arizona: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Cardinals might have a need at quarterback, but the Jackson they select is the guy who led the nation in interceptions last season.

16, Baltimore: WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
This is a tough call, but the Ravens remain local instead of selecting the pass-catcher from Alabama.

17, L.A. Chargers: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
His versatility to play both interior positions and rush the passer should fit well in Gus Bradley’s scheme.

18, Seattle: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
He might be undersized, but he fits in the scheme as the Seahawks try to replenish their pass rush.

19, Dallas: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
This is a tough call, but the Cowboys remain local instead of selecting the pass-catcher from Alabama.

20, Detroit: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Hey, the guy played eight-man football in high school, so he knows how to cover some ground to make plays.

21, Cincinnati: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Don’t be surprised if McGlinchey, the best offensive tackle available, goes much earlier than this – like within the top 12 picks.

22, Buffalo: G/C James Daniels, Iowa
After the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito, Daniels represents the intersection of need and best-player available.

23, New England: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Bill Belichick needs a linebacker and his old buddy, Nick Saban, has just the man for him.

24, Carolina: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
The Panthers agreed to a deal with free-agent Bashaud Breeland but he failed the physical. Alexander steps in to fill a hole.

25, Tennessee: DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan takes the spot the Titans tried to fill with Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the L.A. Rams, instead.

26, Atlanta: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Hurst and Dallas Goedert are first-round talents at TE, but Hurst gets his name called here.

27, New Orleans: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The Saints stop the fall of the guy whom many considered to be the top receiver in the draft.

28, Pittsburgh: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
The Steelers traded for Vance McDonald last year and, obviously, they remain in the market for a playmaker in this spot.

29, Jacksonville: G Will Hernandez, UTEP
The Jags broke the bank to land Andrew Norwell in free agency, and they bring in another powerful presence to open holes for Leonard Fournette.

30, Minnesota: T Kolton Miller, UCLA
If they’re going to guarantee Kirk Cousins all that money, they better bring along someone to protect their investment.

31, New England: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
There are still a lot of questions why Belichick gave away Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for just a second-round pick. In Lauletta, they’re getting the closest thing in this draft to Garoppolo. Just to bring it full circle, they could just wait until No. 43 – the pick acquired from the 49ers for Garoppolo – to make this selection.

32, Philadelphia: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Kirk is a perfect fit for this offense and gives Carson Wentz a nice welcome-back gift upon his return to the playing field.