49ers

Jimmie Ward has successful return in 49ers' preseason game vs. Chiefs

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USATSI

Jimmie Ward has successful return in 49ers' preseason game vs. Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – While all eyes were on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, there was a guy named Jimmie who made a successful return, too.

Defensive back Jimmie Ward, out since May 23 due to a fractured collarbone, started at free safety for the 49ers on Saturday night and also played nickel back in the 49ers’ 27-17 preseason victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, highlighted by Garoppolo's impressive return to the stadium where he sustained a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3 of last season.

Ward played 25 snaps on offense and saw action on two plays on special teams.

“Jimmie is a football player,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It doesn’t matter whether he’s hurt or how long he’s been out, if you allow him to go, he’s going. He’s been that way in practice all week. I know we threw him out there (Saturday), and he was able to play both nickel and free safety, and from what I saw, he played pretty well.”

Ward made three tackles and had good pass coverage down the field on a play in which Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman was penalized for offensive pass interference. Ward is in competition with Tarvarius Moore for the starting job at free safety.

“The good thing about Jimmie, and it has also been tough for him throughout his whole career, is sometimes he is the best or second-best player at every single position depending on what personnel is out there on offense,” Shanahan said. “You have an option to put him out there in a lot of places.”

Ward said the most difficult part about returning to action was his conditioning. He had the shield removed from his facemask and at one point took out his mouthpiece to allow him to breathe more freely.

Ward continued to take part in meetings while he recovered from his latest injury. He has also been participating in walkthroughs for several weeks. His knowledge of the system is his biggest advantage over Moore.

“I feel like it helps to know the whole defense because I’m in so many different parts,” Ward said. “Our base defense is cover 3, so I’m learning really what the linebackers do and sometimes what the D-end does, and everything with all the fits. So it works out perfectly when I’m moving around.”

Ward has missed 29 games in his five-year career due to a variety of injuries. His past two seasons ended due to broken forearms. But Ward said remaining positive has not been difficult for him because he shields himself from fans who often complain about or mock his injuries.

“I don’t get on social media,” he said. “That’s where all of the negative comments come from, so I didn’t get on social media and I listen to my loved ones. They always give me positive feedback.”

Ward played every snap while the 49ers' first-team defense was on the field. Moore entered the game in nickel situations at free safety with Ward moving to nickel back. The team’s primarily nickel back is K’Waun Williams, who is recovering from a knee procedure.

[RELATED: Jimmy G takes 'another step in right direction' for 49ers]

“He’s a ballhawk and that’s why he’s on the field because he’s one of our best 11,” Ward said of Moore. “So that’s why I’m playing nickel. They’re trying to get their best 11 on the field.”

When asked if he considers himself one of the 49ers’ best 11, Ward answered, “I don’t know, but I was on the field.”

Watch ex-49ers assistant Keanon Lowe disarm gunman at Portland school

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AP

Watch ex-49ers assistant Keanon Lowe disarm gunman at Portland school

It's a video that has gone viral of a moment an Oregon coach disarmed a student who entered a school possessing a firearm.

Keanon Lowe, a former 49ers assistant coach, now serves as the head football coach and security guard at Parkrose High School in Portland, Ore. He's also a hero after preventing a shooting when he embraced a gunman and caused them to surrender his weapon:

The gunman walked into one of the buildings at the school with a shotgun hidden under a jacket he was carrying in his arms on May 17.

“I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him," Lowe told reporters. "I told him I was there to save him. I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”

Lowe is also a former standout star wide receiver at the University of Oregon. 

“The universe works in amazing ways," Lowe added. "I’m lucky and I’m happy that I was in that classroom for all those kids and I was able to prevent that tragedy."

Nobody was injured in the events.

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How 49ers' George Kittle went from 'scrawny' receiver to elite tight end

How 49ers' George Kittle went from 'scrawny' receiver to elite tight end

George Kittle wasn’t always the hulking, 250-pound tight end that set the NFL single-season receiving mark for a the position in just his second NFL season.

When he showed up at the University of Iowa, Kittle was a 6-foot-2, 185-pound high school wide receiver with a strong work ethic. 

It was in Iowa City that Kittle’s body underwent a dramatic transformation.

"If you look at any of his high school photos, it will blow your mind," Kittle's mom Jan said.

"He was scrawny when he came to Iowa,” Kittle’s wife Claire said. “But I think that's kind of just how a lot of people are. So they grow into their body and they become the man that they're supposed to be.”

“He certainly embraced our program, he worked very hard,” Iowa Strength and Conditioning coach Chris Doyle told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Had to change his eating habits and change his lifestyle from that regard to kind of grow into just the process of becoming a Division I football player.”

In addition to growing several inches during his time with the Hawkeyes, Kittle put on a whopping 35 pounds during his college career.

“It's overwhelming every single time I see him,” Emma Kittle, George’s older sister, said. “Because he’s still George, and like my little brother. But like physically, he is a man.”

He certainly plays like a man on the field, as the 26-year-old has blossomed into one of the NFL’s top tight ends, even earning a second-team All-Pro designation after his breakout 2018 season.

The Kittle family certainly is not short on impressive athletes, as his father Bruce was also a tight end at Iowa and sister Emma was a Division I volleyball player at Iowa and Oklahoma. His mother Jan lettered in both basketball and softball at Drake University.

[RELATED: Kittle among players to watch vs. Washington]

While puberty may have set in a little later than most for George, his dedication to his craft has manifested itself as he now stands as the No. 1 receiving option on an undefeated 49ers team.

“I've witnessed everything that he's done so far and like all the hard work,” Emma said. “And so to see him succeeding at this level is like, he was born to do this. He was born to have the spotlight on him. He was born to have this type of pressure, like to carry people to work this hard.”