Jimmie Ward believes 49ers can combat Chiefs' speed with physical play

Jimmie Ward believes 49ers can combat Chiefs' speed with physical play

MIAMI -- Free safety Jimmie Ward thought he’d heard questions from everyone about the challenge the 49ers will face in Super Bowl LIV.

Then Ward's Pop Warner coach checked in.

“My old football coach wrote on my social media, something about, ‘Are you going to be able to catch Tyreek Hill?' His speed, this and that,” Ward said on Tuesday. “That’s the crazy thing about it, I was like, 'Dang, you too?' ”

The 49ers have the challenge of facing the Kansas City Chiefs, an explosive offense that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes is the fastest team he has seen -- “by far,” he said.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a talented group of wide receivers from which to choose, including Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman. The 49ers' ability to handle the speed of the Kansas City will be one of the key factors Sunday in Super Bowl LIV.

“We respect that,” Ward said. “They have speed. They have guys who can catch really well and one of the best quarterbacks. Mahomes is cool. Would you rather play a team that you know you’re going to win? I’d rather play a team that a lot of people think we’re going to lose against.”

Ward hopes to answer the question for Tony Powell, his old youth football coach from Mobile, Alabama. In order for the 49ers to slow down the Chiefs, they have to be win their one-on-one matchups while also playing together as a team to rally to the ball and deliver big hits, Ward said.

“If we do line up for a relay, they probably win,” Ward said. “But one thing about it, this is football. There’s such thing as a helmet and shoulder pads. And we hit, and we are very physical with how we hit.

“If you’re fast and you’re running heads-up, and we can run and we collide, you’re going to feel it because you’re so fast. We’re fast, too. I’m pretty sure they see how fast our defense is, too.”

[RELATEDChiefs' Hill says 49ers will face one of most explosive offenses ever]

The 49ers were tied in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills in allowing the fewest pass plays of 20 yards or more during the regular season (34). The 49ers’ allowed just 169.2 yards passing per game, the lowest total in the NFL since the 2009 season.

Ward generally plays the deep middle in the 49ers’ defense, which means it’s his job to keep the play in front of him to prevent game-changing types of plays. There will be times when the Chiefs' wideouts get into the open field, then it's imperative that Ward and his fellow defensive backs do not allow a track meet to break out.

“I feel like we do a great job of taking angles,” Ward said. “When we have that angle, we shoot, then somebody else is coming. As long as you make a guy stop his feet, it takes time to restart.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

President Donald Trump reportedly told sports commissioners and top executives Saturday that he believes the NFL should start on time with fans returning to stadiums by August despite the coronavirus outbreak.

California Governor Gavin Newsom doesn't share the same thoughts.

The governor was asked about Trump's reported prediction and said he doesn't envision California having made enough progress against the virus for it to be business as usual for the NFL in California come fall.

“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said Saturday. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia where they opening up certain businesses and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise. It's interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and the NFL, they've been asking me -- in fact, a well-known athlete -- a football player -- just asked me if he expects to come back. I said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.'"

Listen and subscribe to the 49ers Insider podcast

For Newsom, he is making sure to prioritize safety and caution above all else before letting sports return.

“Our decision on that basis here in the State of California will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our ability to meet this moment and bend the curve and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that's appropriate. Right now I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

[RELATED: 49ers reportedly eye WR/CB at No. 13, plan to trade No. 31]

The truth of the matter is that no one knows how long this will last or when sports will be able to return to packed stadiums. The NFL is planning on starting the schedule on time with fans in the stadium, but that might not be the case in California. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge again the fall, the fate of the NFL's season is very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports can only safely return once the country as a whole has turned the corner from the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

While the NFL offseason programs are postponed, many players are still working out to be ready for the time when the teams are able to get back to work in an organized setting.

In Miami, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Clelin Ferrell are working out with private defensive line coach Mark Hall.

Hall, who recently was a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, sent a video to NBC Sports Bay Area of the three players working out.

[RELATED49ers mailbag: Could Gore or Walker return in free agency?]

The 49ers recently traded Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and re-signed Armstead to a four-year, $84 million contract. Ferrell will enter his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being the club’s first-round selection at No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft.