Created:Wednesday, September 4, 2013 6:55 p.m.CDT
Updated:Wednesday, September 4, 2013 10:54 p.m.CDT
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Ward having little trouble with hand cast

By STEVE NITZ - snitz@shawmedia.com
Northern Illinois football coach Rod Carey celebrates with safety Jimmie Ward after their 30-27 victory over Iowa on Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP photo)

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DeKALB – Approximately 10 percent of the world's population is left-handed and among them is Northern Illinois senior safety Jimmie Ward.

This presents a problem for Ward at the moment, since he's playing with a cast on his left hand because of a broken index finger.

Ward's injury hasn't kept him off the field, though the coaching staff does keep him out of certain contact-related drills such as inside run, and NIU coach Rod Carey said the cast will be off in a few weeks.

In the classroom, the cast can provide some difficulty, as Ward basically has to write with his thumb.

"It's hard to write. Good thing I don't have any typing classes right now," he joked. "It's hard to write. It's aggravating, but it's something you've got to adapt to. There aren't any ways around it."

Ward has learned to adapt on the field as well, using his feet more while jamming wideouts and fighting off blocks.

"It's a negative and a positive," Ward said. "The negative is I can't use my left hand often, the positive is it makes me move my feet more, it makes me get better overall."

Yet the coaching staff hasn't noticed much of a difference in Ward's catching ability, and neither did anyone who saw his interception, which set up Mathew Sims' game-winning field goal in the Huskies' 30-27 win over Iowa on Saturday.

"The ball drills that we've done in practice, the things that we do in teamwork, in addition to what he did on Saturday afternoon, I have not noticed that [catching's] been a problem," Huskies defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said. "It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. When you see a guy walk around with a cast, you would think he has problems catching the football, but he manages, he just manages to get it done."

Ward did say that when he picked off Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock with roughly a minute left in the fourth quarter Saturday, he had to turn his body toward the ball in order to pin it against his chest and his right hand. That's a tactic he's been using with the cast.

"It makes me focus more. I kind of slowed up [during Saturday's interception]," he said. "Because I felt like if I would have had two hands, it would have been a pick-six. But I had to slow up."

With the cast, Ward has had to deal with some minor changes, but the differences are subtle.

"I haven't really noticed it," Niemann said. "He might tell you different, but I haven't sensed any change in his play at all."

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