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49ers take NIU safety Jimmie Ward

Updated: May 9, 2014 9:51AM



Any hopes the Bears had of landing Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward in the second round disappeared on the first night of the NFL draft.

The San Francisco 49ers took him at No. 30, making Ward the fourth safety drafted in the first round Thursday. That made a thin safety class even thinner for the Bears to mull over on Day 2 of the draft Friday.

With the 49ers selecting safety Eric Reid in the first round last year, then signing safety Antoine Bethea to a four-year, $21 million contract, the Ward pick raised some eyebrows.

But coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that Ward, who improved his draft stock by showcasing his coverage skills at the Senior Bowl, will have a chance to fill the nickel-back role.

“He’s a very physical football player,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “He plays well week in and week out. I don’t remember watching a bad game on him.”

Bears and Bortles

The Jacksonville Jaguars made Central Florida’s Blake Bortles the first quarterback off the board, surprisingly passing on Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Bears backup quarterback Jordan Palmer had a lot to do with it.

Palmer tutored Bortles in California before the draft. He even attended the draft with Bortles, posting pictures from New York and Radio City Music Hall on Twitter.

The Bears have high regard for Palmer’s ability to work with other players. Former backup Josh McCown did that exceptionally well, especially last season, when a new offense was being implemented.

Coach Marc Trestman said Palmer is similar to McCown when it comes to integrating teammates.

“He’s taken over the tradition now of getting these new guys ready, the Josh Bellamys, the Josh Morgans, the Domenik Hixons,” Trestman said this week. “He’s spending time with those guys during the off time to get them up to speed with the guys who have been around on the offense. He’s taken on that role.”

On the move

Speaking at a predraft event, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated that the league is open to having the 2015 draft outside of New York. With Mayor Rahm Emanuel making a strong push, Chicago remains intriguing for the NFL, but several options have emerged.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in Chicago and Los Angeles — and other markets, by the way — from all the way up to the mayor and on down,” Goodell told reporters. “And we know fans would love to have the experience.”

One interesting option is Canton, Ohio, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Goodell said there have been conversations with the city.

“Right now, what we’ll probably do is handpick our solution for next year,” Goodell said.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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