HOUSTON — When it comes to Houston Texans safety Jimmie Ward, it is always best to expect the unexpected.
Unless you are a wide receiver or tight end looking to occupy any space around the 10-year veteran. Otherwise expect aggressive and territorial play, as the Texans are over the lifetime of Ward’s two-year, $13 million contract.
The former 2014 first-round pick followed former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to Houston as the reigning AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year still has a vision for Ward in the Texans’ backend.
Tight end Dalton Schultz found out just how hostile Ward could be during a team drill last month. Schultz ran a route that carried him between both safeties (Ward and Jalen Pitre) and seemed to be open when rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud released the ball.
When the ball touched his hands, he felt the force and power of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Ward, who had launched himself from the ground to warn Schultz that he was not welcomed in that area. The former Dallas Cowboys tight end stayed down for a minute as the Texans’ medical trainers checked on the damage done by the fearless safety. Schultz was kept out of the remainder of practice.
Two weeks later, Ward reminded the offense again that he plays like his hair is on fire and looks to initiate contact and possibly inflict pain when he gets the opportunity.
During 11-on-11 drills in front of the fans at Houston Methodist Training Center, Ward closed out on wide receiver Noah Brown and punched the ball out of his hands as he completed a catch from Stroud, causing a turnover. The crowd went wild as the defense recovered the ball. Ward could be heard around the facility talking trash with Pitre as they returned to the huddle.
“What have I seen from Jimmie, I’ve seen a guy who looks comfortable in what we’re asking him to do,” said Ryans when he was asked about Ward’s performance in training camp. “And you see a guy who is playing the way I’ve seen him play for several years now. He’s playing with his hair on fire. He’s all over the field; he’s controlling the back end and with the tandem of him and Pitre, it’s just awesome to watch. Both guys play similar styles, flying around but under control and still making plays; a lot of plays on the ball were made.
“It’s encouraging to see your veteran guys, guys, that you’re going to count on making plays the way that Jimmie has made. It’s been fun. Now, he’s just got to finish those interceptions.”
Ward echoed his head coach’s sentiments about his day on Sunday in an interview with the Texans Wire. After one dropped interception, he went to the ground and did ten pushups to punish himself.
“I will give it like a six or seven,” Ward said. “Those pass breakups should have been two picks. It should have been pick six, both of them. The forced fumble was a good play.”
Although this is his first training camp in a Texans uniform, Ward is no stranger to imposing his will on an opponent on the practice field. He was involved in a scuffle with former Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins when he was a member of the 49ers back in 2018 during a joint practice.
During a one-on-one drill between Houston’s wide receivers and San Francisco’s defensive backs, Ward knocked Hopkins’s helmet off and punched at the ball. That angered Hopkins, and the two began to throw punches at one another and eventually ended up on the ground before teammates were able to break them up.
Hopkins was ejected and sent to the locker room, while Ward sat out the remainder of practice on the sideline away from the team.
Ward is not looking to reenact his past performance when the Miami Dolphins come to town for two joint practices before their second preseason game against the Texans on Saturday. He is happy to finally be able to play against some other opponents besides his teammates, having sat out the first preseason game against the New England Patriots.
“I am glad that this organization put this together,” said Ward about practicing with the Dolphins. “I am looking forward to it. They have a really good offense. I was fortunate enough to play them last year when I played for San Francisco. Having them come in here and we are hosting this practice, I feel it is going to be a great time.”