NFL free agency: Jimmie Ward wants to re-sign with 49ers in offseason

NFL free agency: Jimmie Ward wants to re-sign with 49ers in offseason

SANTA CLARA -- Jimmie Ward this season proved he can play 16 games.

And he proved his best position is free safety.

Now that those issues are cleared up, Ward for the first time faces the uncertainty of heading into the offseason not knowing for which team he will be playing.

“The 49ers have the upper hand right now,” Ward said on Wednesday, as the 49ers were clearing out their lockers at Levi’s Stadium. “This is where I would like to be. I like to continue playing for this great organization.”

Ward also acknowledges that there are players, such as tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, whom the 49ers need to sign to contract extensions and not run the risk of allowing them to hit free agency in the future because of the cost it would take to retain them on the open market.

That leaves Ward uncertain of where he fits into the 49ers' long-term plan.

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Ward was a free agent at the end of last season. But he did not have much value because he was coming off three consecutive seasons that were cut short due to broken bones. When the 2018 season concluded, the 49ers were the clear front-runner to retain Ward on a one-year contract.

As he enters his seventh NFL season, Ward is likely to attract some attention as a free agent. After missing the first three games of the season, Ward played the final 16 games, including three in the postseason.

He has a clear vision for 2020, too. He no longer wants to be valued for his versatility. He is a safety. And that’s it.

“Yes, it’s amazing I can do other things, too,” he said. “But leave me at safety. That’s what I love to do. That’s what I’m most passionate about. Basically, if it don’t work out with the 49ers, I’m going to look at any possibilities with teams that want me to play safety.”

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

California 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 Gov. 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 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.' "

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Newsom 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," Newsom said. "Right now, I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

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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.

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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.