49ers

Why 49ers' Kwon Alexander isn't stressing Buccaneers reunion in Week 1

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AP

Why 49ers' Kwon Alexander isn't stressing Buccaneers reunion in Week 1

SANTA CLARA — 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander's first game with his new team is against his old one. 

Alexander, 24, will return to Tampa on Sunday to face the Buccaneers in his San Francisco debut. Although he will suit up against the team that drafted him for the first time, Alexander said there are no sentimental feelings -- at least not yet. 

“It’ll be cool,” Alexander said at the 49ers practice facility on Wednesday. “Sentimental? Nah. Just ready to get the job done. There’s nothing else I can really keep saying about it. At the end it’s not going to be all about me so I’m trying to make it all about the team." 

Since signing with the 49ers as a free agent this offseason, Alexander has consistently been one of the 49ers defense's most vocal players in practice. Even ahead of a matchup against his former team in Week 1, coach Kyle Shanahan says Alexander's energy level has not waivered. 

“I think he’s fired up,” Shanahan said. “He’s fired up every day I’ve ever been around him. I haven’t seen anything different. 

“Now that we’re playing Tampa I think it would be hard for him to be more fired up, but I’m sure he’s got some big emotions going back to a place that he’s got a lot of respect for and that I know he enjoyed and I know it will be fun for him. I think it’s a good start for him and hopefully it’ll be successful.”

So far, Alexander has made it a point to bring more energy out of fellow inside linebacker Fred Warner in practice. Like Shanahan, Warner has seen a consistent level of intensity from Alexander. 

That hasn't changed ahead of Alexander's Tampa homecoming. 

“I know it’s early in the week, but I’m sure as it starts to lead more into it he will start to maybe start feeling some more emotion,” Warner said of his teammate. “But he plays with the same edge every single day. He always comes to work.” 

Alexander had a successful run in Tampa. He led the league with 108 solo tackles and tied for third with 145 combined tackles in 2016. Alexander was selected to his first Pro Bowl a year later, but his final season with the Buccaneers ended in injury after he tore his ACL in Week 7.

[RELATED: Jimmy G entering crucial year, beginning Sunday vs. Bucs]

If Alexander's return to Tampa becomes more emotional as Sunday's season opener nears, he definitely is unlikely to admit it. When asked if it will finally affect him when the 49ers touch down in Tampa this weekend, Alexander had a simple answer. 

“No,” Alexander said. “Go out there and get a win. As long as I go out there and do my job, as long as we get the win, it’ll be alright. Ain’t worried about nothing else. Ain’t all about me, it’s about the team. As long as I got my dogs with me, I’m straight. I have people around for me.” 

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk calls out NFL for no fullbacks on All-Decade Team

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk calls out NFL for no fullbacks on All-Decade Team

Fullbacks are a bit of a dying breed, but the position still deserves respect.

Just ask Kyle Juszczyk.

The NFL announced on Monday the All-Decade Team for the 2010s, but there were no fullbacks listed.

The 49ers had four representatives from the team, two current players and two former: Running back Frank Gore, tackle Joe Staley, linebacker Patrick Willis and cornerback Richard Sherman.

Juice appeared to be unimpressed with the lack of fullback representation:

Football is a brutal sport on the body, but especially so on fullbacks, who often have to do a little bit of everything on offense to help their team win.

There’s nothing glamorous about the position, but Juszczyk was imperative to get the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, as he was utilized both as a blocker and a receiver. He also became a key piece in many things head coach Kyle Shanahan did offensively. His teammates mirrored similar sentiments. 

[RELATED: Vernon Davis explains emotions after 'The Catch III']

Now, it's just a matter of getting proper representation.

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Will 49ers regret signing Jimmie Ward in free agency? It's complicated

Will 49ers regret signing Jimmie Ward in free agency? It's complicated

Jimmie Ward's career with the 49ers has been far from perfect so far. But coaches and the front office never gave up on the former first-round draft pick. 

And their patience with Ward persisted last season as he played 16 games -- including the playoffs -- for only the second time in his career and the first time since 2015. That turned into a pretty paycheck for the safety. 

The 49ers re-signed Ward to a three-year, $28.5 million contract. It's clear San Francisco trusts Ward. Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski, however, isn't sold on him. He recently listed Ward as the signing the 49ers will regret for the hefty contract, past injuries and expected regression. 

Ward certainly is a complicated case. 

“His no-nonsense passion for the game amplifies his special physical abilities, while also setting a tone for our defense," general manager John Lynch said after the 49ers made the signing official. "This extension allows Jimmie to continue to grow in our defense and we look forward to seeing where he can take his game."

Ever since the 49ers took Ward No. 30 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, he has been moved all around the secondary. Ward has played both free and strong safety and even dabbled with some time at cornerback. This past season, he found a home at free safety for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. 

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Ward was the sixth-highest graded safety in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus. He totaled 65 tackles and eight passes defensed in 13 regular-season games, and then had 18 more tackles and forced a fumble over the 49ers' three playoff games. 

Once again, though, Ward missed some time last year due to injury. He was out for the first three games of the regular season while recovering from a fractured finger and has only averaged 10.7 games per season through his six-year career. Paying an injury-prone safety over $9 million annually doesn't exactly come without risk. 

Whether it be coaches, front office, his health or his play, Ward's career has lacked consistency. That will continue in 2020 as well after defensive backs coach Joe Woods left the 49ers for the Cleveland Browns. 

[RELATED: Four 49ers selected to NFL's All-Decade Team of 2010s]

There's no doubt Ward comes with risk. At the same time, the 49ers didn't continue to believe in him by accident. The talent is there and Ward fits what Saleh wants to do with San Francisco's defense. 

Only time will tell if the 49ers regret this. For now, they'll show more trust in Ward, just like they did with his new contract.