The safety Ward, speaking with the Bay Area media following the team’s Monday, October 18 practice in Santa Clara, spoke highly of the newest Indianapolis Colts defensive end who will make his return to Levi’s Stadium this Sunday.
“He was the heart and soul when he was here, man,” Ward said. “I wasn’t happy about [the trade], but I understand the business side. I’m pretty sure you all knew something was going to happen, just like I did. I just didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Buckner, who spent his first four seasons with the 49ers, was swapped for the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, moved up to the 49ers’ spot to take offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. The 49ers wound up using the No. 14 selection on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
Buckner ‘was Unique’
Ward, who has spent his entire career with S.F including the four years Buckner lined up in the trenches, lauded Buckner’s play along the line of scrimmage, calling him “unique.”
“He was unique in some of the stuff he did, how aggressive he was in his mindset,” Ward said. “And the players that we’ve got now, they’re the same type of players, but they’re them. You can’t be Buck, you know? He’s a totally different person. He thinks different. He’s built different.”
So Ward was disappointed that the 49ers shipped away one of their more talented trench stars. But does that mean the veteran Ward has ill feelings toward the men who orchestrated the trade?
“I feel like John (Lynch) and Kyle (Shanahan) did a great job in replacing him,” Ward said. “But at the end of the day, he’s still Buck.”
Ward Does Question One NFC West Rival
As Ward answered the questions regarding his ex-teammate, the verbose defender did question one NFC West rival’s offseason motives.
“[The 49ers] couldn’t keep everyone,” Ward said. “Maybe — I don’t know — they probably could have made it work somehow [with Buckner]. The Rams keep doing it. I don’t know how. Do you know where they’re getting all this money from? Like I said, it’s the business side of it.”
Ward is wondering how much money the Rams really do have, since they’ve made some splashy free agent moves since 2017 from getting Jalen Ramsey, to trading for Matthew Stafford all the way to snatching Sony Michel before the season.
It’s also not the first time he’s verbally come after the Rams.
During a July 9, 2021 interview with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Cohn, Ward accused Rams head coach Sean McVay of targeting him too many times, prompting him to ask “What does he have against me that makes him go at me every game and lose that mother f*****.”
Ward and the Rams, though, won’t face each other until November 15 in their Monday Night Football battle at Levi’s. Their Sunday battle against Buckner and the Colts will be the Sunday Night Football matchup.