Mooney Ward competing with self as key to 49ers' secondary

Mooney Ward competing with self as key to 49ers' secondary originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — Charvarius Ward received his first Pro Bowl nod for his performance during the 2023 NFL regular season, but that’s not the only goal the 49ers cornerback has set.

“It’s a good feeling,” Ward said after receiving the news. “It’s always been one of my dreams to be recognized as one of the best so I’m thankful to God, and glad I got to get it done this year."

Ward has been a standout in San Francisco’s secondary, racking up a league-high 23 pass breakups and a career-high five interceptions. The Middle Tennessee State product’s 63.0 passer rating allowed ranks sixth in the NFL, according to PFF.

Ward credits his growing relationship with his 1-year-old daughter, Amani Joi, as well as defensive coordinator Steve Wilks' support for his increased production on the field. Wilks’ background with the secondary has been felt throughout the 49ers' roster.

“He helped my game out a lot,” Mooney said of Wilks. “Every time I walk by him, he tells me I’m a bad MFer. He’s been believing in me all season even when I was getting a lot of flags. He kept saying keep playing your game, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

In his second season with the 49ers, Ward has become more vocal as a leader not only with the secondary, but for the entire team. Wilks has noticed the the corner's maturation both on and off the field.

“Just in the details of his technique and then the consistency in which he practices,” Wilks said. “I think you guys heard me say this once this year and calling him out. He’s full speed on a Friday. He’s going to the ground trying to get the ball.

“He made a statement the other day talking to the team when Kyle [Shanahan] had him break it down, which I love. He said, ‘Continue to compete against the man in the mirror.’ That’s what he’s been doing all year. That’s his quote. He’s been competing against himself trying to get better each and every, not week, but day. It’s shown up and it’s paid off for him.”

Ward is not done yet. Extra work catching passes from quarterback Sam Darnold has increased his interception rate and will continue into the postseason, where he believes the 49ers will see success.

Personal accolades are nice, but the goal is a trip to Las Vegas for the biggest game of the season. Ward, who has been in the winners circle before, with the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2019 season, believes the 49ers have what it takes to be there this February.

“It’s going to happen,” Ward said with a smile. “We are going to be in Vegas. I feel like we are.”

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