Jimmie Ward went through a limited practice on Wednesday, his first of the summer after suffering a hamstring injury nearly four weeks ago.
The 49ers were careful with Ward’s recovery, underscoring the importance of the free-safety spot he will play this year. He was given two straight rigorous workouts last week, then was put through the paces again on Monday and Tuesday.
Rookie Lorenzo Jerome has played free safety with the first-string defense in the first two preseason games. Kyle Shanahan said there’s been no decision as to whether Ward will start Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“Of course we would like him to, but really no expectations for that,” he said. “We’ll see how he looks today. I’m hoping we do a little bit more on Thursday, and we’ll know a little bit more after two practices.”
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The 49ers call the free-safety spot “The Eraser” because the player is the last line of defense and is responsible for wiping away anyone else’s mistake. Ward, who played cornerback last year for San Francisco, lined up there throughout spring practices but hurt his hamstring in the conditioning test that kicked off training camp last month.
Defensive lineman added – With three defensive linemen coming back from injuries, the 49ers on Wednesday signed Sen’Derrick Marks, a former second-round pick familiar to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Marks’ eight-year career has been split between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, who in recent seasons used the same defense the 49ers are implementing this year. Their former coach, Gus Bradley, was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator when Saleh was a quality-control coach in Seattle. Saleh was Jacksonville’s linebackers coach for the last three seasons.
Marks (6-foot-2, 302 pounds) started all 16 games for Jacksonville in 2013 and 2014, and he led the team with 8 1/2 sacks in 2014. However, he started only three games the last two seasons due to injuries and after the Jaguars brought in other, more prominent players at his position.
“We just wanted more competition inside,” Shanahan said of the addition. “... He’s got 10 days to show us he deserves to be on the 53-man roster.”
Marks, 30, likely will line up at defensive tackle where DeForest Buckner is the starter. Buckner has been out of practice with an ankle injury for much of August but returned on a limited basis Wednesday. Defensive ends Aaron Lynch (ankle) and Ronald Blair (groin) also were back at practice.
▪ Kyle Juszczyk practiced in a blue jersey, signifying he is to avoid contact. The fullback suffered a minor shoulder injury Saturday. Cornerback Will Redmond (ankle) did not practice.
Backup battle – Shanahan said no decision has been made yet on which quarterback, Matt Barkley or C.J. Beathard, will relieve Brian Hoyer in Sunday’s game. The two will continue to split second-team snaps in practice.