49ers lose another defender in Ward for season

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco 49ers lost another key defender for the remainder of the season, placing rookie nickel cornerback and top draft pick Jimmie Ward on injured reserve Saturday with a foot injury.

It has been a tough week for the defense ahead of Sunday's road game against the New York Giants. Ward was hurt in last Sunday's overtime win at New Orleans, and it's the same foot that needed surgery in March for a Jones fracture.

Ward joins seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis on season-ending injured reserve. Willis' season was ended Tuesday, and the team announced he would need surgery for a strained muscle in his left big toe. He was injured in the third quarter at St. Louis on Oct. 13.

The 49ers (5-4) filled Ward's roster spot with star linebacker Aldon Smith, who was added to the 53-man roster from the exempt list after he served a nine-game suspension by the league for violations of the NFL's substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.

He is set to make his season debut against the Giants, though in what capacity is unclear.

Even defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wasn't sure what to expect from Smith, who also missed five games last season to undergo treatment following his September 2013 DUI arrest.

''He's a little rusty. I've heard people say that he's in a better situation than he was last year,'' Fangio said Thursday. ''I don't really see it that way because last year he played in three regular-season games and was gone for five weeks.

''He hadn't played in any regular-season games and hadn't played and missed the first nine games. It's been a long time since he's had action. He's rusty, but he's a young, good athlete, who I think will get the rust off pretty quickly. Haven't really decided how I'm going to play him on Sunday, how much.''

Ward, the 30th overall draft pick out of Northern Illinois, finished with 20 tackles and two passes defensed in eight games.

The 49ers have until Monday, at the conclusion of a 21-day evaluation window, to decide whether to activate nose tackle Glenn Dorsey or keep him on IR. He returned to practice Oct. 27 after recovering from a torn left biceps muscle that required surgery.

And 2013 starting nose tackle Ian Williams, who was sidelined last year following a Week 2 ankle injury against Seattle, was in a walking boot and using crutches this week for a fractured fibula in his left leg.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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