Jimmie Ward suffered another fractured forearm that possibly will end his season - again.
The 49ers free safety left Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay in the first half of a 27-9 loss to the Buccaneers after feeling a familiar sensation in his left wrist. Ward broke the same forearm on Oct. 29, 2017.
It would mark the fourth time in his five-year career that Ward would end a season on injured reserve.
“I just play physical. I don’t know any other way,” Ward said with his left arm in a brace and sling. “It’s just a tough break. When it happens, it happens. I’ve been there before. I’m just going to grind and get back.”
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Ward’s future, particularly with the 49ers, is in the air. The 2014 first-round draft pick is slated for free agency in the spring and didn’t assume the role as starting safety this year until Adrian Colbert went down with a right high ankle sprain against the Rams on Oct. 21.
Ward suffered the injury on the second defensive series. He tackled running back Peyton Barber and realized he probably broke his arm. Ward wanted to stay in the game, then took a knee before the next snap after Buccaneers lineman Demar Dotson was flagged for a false start.
“So I felt like that was God telling me, ‘Just, nah. Take it in.’ So that’s when I took a knee,” Ward said. “I got an X-ray and told (the training staff) that it was messed up before. Before I got the X-ray, I knew what time it was.”
Compounding Ward’s injury was the loss of rookie fifth-round pick D.J. Reed, Ward’s backup, to a heel injury later. It was unknown if Reed would miss time, but his absence forced San Francisco to use fourth-string free safety Antone Exum Jr. Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt also left the game with a stinger, allowing rookie sixth-round pick Marcell Harris to get playing time in the fourth quarter.
Shanahan not ruling out QB change - Quarterback Nick Mullens struggled mightily against the Buccaneers. His passing line (18 of 32, 221 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions) was padded in the fourth quarter with the game well out of hand.
The second-year pro had just 45 yards at halftime and 121 through three quarters against Tampa Bay’s 28th-ranked passing defense. Mullens averaged a miserable 5.4 yards per attempt and was sacked four times after the offensive line didn’t allow a sack in the previous two games against the Raiders and Giants.
The 49ers next travel to play the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, where they haven’t won since December 2011. Based on Mullens’ first road performance, it would seem wise for Shanahan to consider a move back to C.J. Beathard, who played well in spurts on the road against the Packers and Chargers before a hand injury led to Mullens taking over.
“I don’t think he played very well, just looking at some of our situations, but that wasn’t all him,” Shanahan said of Mullens. “No one played very well, especially in the passing game.”
The 49ers played without their top two receivers, Marquise Goodwin (personal reasons) and Pierre Garçon (knee). San Francisco could have both back against the Seahawks, who earned a crucial 30-27 road victory over Carolina on Sunday and are in the playoff hunt.
Shanahan said he wouldn’t rule out a quarterback change.
“I evaluate it every week honestly,” he said. “There’s no difference in that, and I’ll continue to do that with every position on our team for the next five weeks.”
Goodwin’s absence felt - Goodwin returned to the Bay Area to deal with an undisclosed family issue. He missed practice Monday and returned Wednesday.
“It’s a family matter ... something personal,” Shanahan said. “He definitely wasn’t in trouble. He’s going through a serious situation. Our prayers are with him, but it was tough.”
The 49ers received a career day from rookie second-round pick Dante Pettis in Goodwin’s absence. Pettis scored his second career touchdown on a 13-yard slant route in the second quarter. He finished with a career-best 77 yards on four receptions.
“Being able to play this much, this late in the season, I’m definitely way more comfortable in there,” Pettis said.
Pettis dealt with a knee issue stemming from a punt return in Week 4 against the Chargers that caused him to miss the following three games. He said he’s far healthier now after the bye week.
“I feel 100 percent right now,” he said. “I feel really good now. Definitely wasn’t the case before. So it’s good to kind of be back.”