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Niners CB Charvarius Ward on facing old team in Super Bowl LVIII: 'It's gonna be fun'

LAS VEGAS -- San Francisco 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward has already traveled a rather winding path in his NFL career.

The first few turns appeared when he went undrafted, began his career in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys, then found himself packing his bags once again when they traded him to Kansas City back in 2018. It turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to a cornerback who wasn't even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

Over time, Ward rose up the depth chart into a key role in Kansas City's defense, one so prominent that he ended up being too expensive to keep. But before Ward left following the 2021 season, he earned a Super Bowl ring as part of the 2019 Chiefs team that won Super Bowl LIV.

Now, he's back in the big game. But instead of dressing in red, yellow and white, he'll be donning a gold helmet and lining up opposite the Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl LVIII, becoming one of the first two players to appear on both sides of a SB rematch (the other being current Chiefs receiver Richie James).

Awkward, right? Not so much, according to Ward, who relishes the opportunity.

"Nah, it's not weird. It's gonna be fun," Ward said Monday at Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium, which will host Sunday's game. "They've been one of the best teams in the league in the past five, six years, since Pat Mahomes been there. So it's a good opportunity to go out there and try to knock off the top dog in the league. They're the defending champs, so we've got to try to take their throne."

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After spending four years facing him in practice, Ward knows all about Mahomes, the two-time MVP who has once again led his Chiefs to the sport's greatest stage. Logically, that should give the cornerback an advantage, but it's not that simple.

"You can look at it both ways," Ward said. "They probably think they know my weaknesses. It's gonna be a good game for sure."

If Ward has weaknesses, he didn't show them much in 2023, leading the league in passes defensed (23) and earning his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro (second team) nods. The numbers and accolades suggest Ward is peaking at the perfect time, making for an excellent opportunity to secure a win over his old employer.

One might expect Ward to harbor ill will toward the Chiefs, but as he explained it Wednesday, his move west was nothing but business.

"Going into free agency, I knew the Chiefs couldn't really afford me," explained Ward, who signed a three-year, $40.5 million deal with the 49ers in 2022. "I was kind of out of their price range. Me and my agent, when we were going to a new team, I told him two things: I wanted to go to a winning team. I didn't want to go to a bad team. And lastly, I wanted to be compensated nicely. And the 49ers were able to provide that."

Ward has the rare privilege of spending his career with two elite contenders. As he said, it's by design.

"I feel like both of them are winning organizations. It's not really much of a crazy difference," Ward said. "They both coach us hard, they expect us to win. That's what I do at this organization, and that's what I did at the other organization as well. I'm thankful to be a part of both great organizations."

But only one can emerge victorious Sunday, and after experiencing both the joy of winning a title in Super Bowl LIV and the pain of losing another in Super Bowl LV, it's obvious which Ward prefers. He'll have to bring his absolute best to take down his old teammates Sunday.

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