It’s much more than rebounding from a bad outing against DK Metcalf for the San Francisco 49ers starting cornerback. He recalls the team that traded him away when he arrived to the league: The one he’ll line up against on Sunday, January 22.
“They traded me, so I had a chip on my shoulder, to show them they made a mistake,” Ward said via the Bay Area News’ Cam Inman.
And Ward bluntly adds: “It was a terrible trade for them.”
How it All Happened & What Came After
Ward arrived to the NFL going undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State in 2018. The Cowboys not only picked him up as a free agent, but first signed him to a three-year, $1.7 million contract.
But on August 30, the Kansas City Chiefs orchestrated a deal to send guard Parker Ehinger to Dallas in exchange for Ward, which the cornerback described as a surprising sequence.
“It was surprising. I thought I played good enough to stick around, but God has got different plans for me,” Ward said following the trade via the Cowboys team website. “I’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Ward would eventually rise in the two-deep for the Chiefs and eventually played in 13 games with two starts his rookie season. Then the following year, Ward established himself as a permanent starter for all regular season games and went on to deliver 74 tackles, 56 solo stops, 10 pass deflections and snatched two interceptions during the Chiefs’ run to the Vince Lombardi Trophy over his future team.
As for the lineman the Cowboys traded for Ehinger? He was waived on April 10, 2019 and has since played for five different NFL franchises.
Ward did have a previous crack at Dallas: November 21, 2021 in Kansas City. Ward ended up picking off Dak Prescott and finished with seven tackles in the 19-9 win at Arrowhead Stadium. But Sunday now presents this opportunity for Ward: Sending the Cowboys home and ending their season.
But for Ward to help lift the 49ers to the NFC title game, he’ll aim to bounce back from his 49ers playoff debut.
Ward References Muhammad Ali in Approach for Divisional Round Game
Ward had the following numbers attached to him in the 41-23 romp of the Seattle Seahawks per Pro Football Reference Advanced Stats: Seven catches allowed on nine targets, 105 yards his side and one 50-yard touchdown from Metcalf.
“Muhammad Ali got beat up before,” Ward said. “S*** happens. But you’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen again and learn from your mistakes.”
The 49ers will need the cornerback they signed to a $40.5 million deal in a big way for this NFC Divisional Round showdown. The Cowboys are bringing with them a deep lineup of wideouts with CeeDee Lamb leading the charge. Lamb delivered his first 100-catch campaign of 107 catches and shattered new personal bests with 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns. But the 49ers brought in Ward back in March to help take on the No. 1 WR option on the opposite side…including Lamb.
It’ll mark the second time Ward and Lamb have faced off. Ward bottled the Cowboys WR to one catch for five yards in their 2021 meeting per Pro Football Focus. Along with trying to redeem himself against Lamb and the Dallas wideouts, Ward will shoot for a 2-0 record against the team he said delivered a “terrible trade” involving him.