© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday saw the 49ers stash away two of their key offseason acquisitions on injured reserve in rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd and veteran cornerback Jason Verrett. Hurd’s back injury lingered and lingered until the 49ers decided they could let it linger no longer; it was initially deemed back tightness, then clarified as a stress reaction in his back (but perhaps incidentally called a stress fracture again by head coach Kyle Shanahan on Thursday), while Verrett, who’s unfortunate reputation is his inability to stay healthy, had a “flare up” in his knee after a severe ankle sprain in the preseason.
What happened with Hurd and Verrett?
There were corresponding moves for Hurd and Verrett in the return of two 49ers from training camp; one whose name probably inspires more excitement than than the other. In Hurd’s stead (and for the already sidelined Trent Taylor, who’s also on injured reserve), the team brought back Jordan Matthews, who, as Shanahan stated, was “extremely close to making the team,” this offseason.
Both Taylor and Hurd would have played in the slot, leaving Richie James Jr. as effectively the 49ers’ only slot receiver. The addition of Matthews adds a proven, veteran pass-catching presence and the tallest wide receiving frame on the team (6’3″) at the most desperate receiving position on the field.
The other addition was cornerback Dontae Johnson, who improved from a horrible training camp late in the preseason against second- and third-string offenses. It would be no great surprise to see him made inactive on Monday night.
According to Shanahan, Verrett’s situation was the result of him “being behind the eight ball too much.”
“[Verrett] had an injury that didn’t allow him to work for the last couple weeks of training camp,” Shanahan said. “We’ve been trying to ease him back in these last three weeks. After the Pittsburgh game, his knee just flared up over the week, and coming back from the bye, doctors advised us that he needed to rest it a lot longer and so we’re trying to do the best thing for him because he’s not ready to go.”
Hurd’s situation was similar, but much more of a gamble on the part of the 49ers in that his timeline was anywhere from three-to-10 weeks.
“He’s just gotta rest. Anytime you have a stress fracture in your back, that was hard thing with it,” Shanahan said. “There’s guys who come back in three weeks, there’s guys who have taken 10 weeks. There’s just as good of a chance to come back in three weeks as there is 10 weeks. We took that chance. It hasn’t been healing the way we wanted it to. The pain is still there. We’ve got to give him at least another month. That’s the reason we had to put him on IR.”
… And how potential injured reserve returns could shake out
The biggest takeaway from Shanahan’s response to questions about Hurd and Verrett was his affirmation of their potential to come off the injured reserve. Per NFL rules, teams can return two players from injured reserve during the season after eight weeks on the list (they can practice after six weeks). Teams do not have to designate who those players will be, which could be bad news for Kentavius Street, and maybe Trent Taylor.
While the 49ers lost a roster spot on cutdown day so they could put Street on injured reserve (the only way a return designation would be possible) and Street said he felt confident he’d be ready to go before that eight-week timeline (could return in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals), his return seems in doubt with the 49ers’ stacked defensive line and the addition of Hurd and Verrett to IR.
As Shanahan said Thurdsay, “Both of them (Hurd and Verrett) are candidates [to return], definitely.”
That could also spell bad news for Taylor, who is eligible to return in Week 11 against the Cardinals. Both Hurd and Verrett are eligible to return in Week 13, on the road against the Ravens.
It may well depend what the injury situation is heading into those weeks. A defensive line injury could well see Street return, and the same could hold true with defensive backs. But at the moment, it seems like at least Taylor will return in Week 11, and unlikely (barring a serious defensive line injury) that Street will return.
Shanahan implies Jimmie Ward may be active for first time and roster move back that up
On Tuesday, the 49ers released Antone Exum Jr. and promoted Marcell Harris from the practice squad. The move hinted at the fact that Jimmie Ward could be activated for the first time this season. While Exum could play at free and strong safety, Harris is essentially an out-and-out strong safety. To add Harris to the active roster was a sign that Ward, who can play anywhere, but is obviously a natural free safety, would be available. It provides insurance should Tarvarius Moore get hurt (or play poorly).
Shanahan’s comments on Thursday didn’t confirm that Ward would be active, but they leaned in that direction; he praised Ward’s positional flexibility and said he’s the healthiest he’s been all season.
“Jimmie is the wild card because Jimmie can help us at really at every single position… he’s healthier now than he has been,” Shanahan said. “He’s been healthy, but his cast has gotten smaller, so it’s a lot easier for him to go this week. He’s got the possibility to play at any spot. We’ll see how practice goes and where we want to put him.”
Dee Ford might be questionable and limited every week, while Coleman is ‘good to go’
Don’t expect Dee Ford to be anything other than questionable every week. He’s got a chronic quad/knee tendinitis issue that will not go away this season, and will probably require surgery in the offseason (Ford said last week he’d need to get something done to sort out the issue, though was not sure what).
Ford wasn’t active at practice on Thursday, but will be later in the week, according to Shanahan. Expect that to become a routine.
“It’s definitely improving but we’re not going to put him out there today and we’ll see day-to-day with that,” Shanahan said. “Really hoping to have him Monday night. He’ll be questionable all week.”
Asked whether it’s something that would limit him in practice, or to a limited number of practices each week, Shanahan responded in the affirmative.
“It definitely is something [that will happen each week],” Shanahan said. “We hope that goes away. The stuff that we’ve done for him, we’ve got to ease him back into it, which we are doing it. Hopefully he’ll get out there tomorrow, more likely on Friday.”
As for Tevin Coleman, the outlook is more positive. And if he’s ready to go by the end of the week, he’ll be playing.
“Tevin is good to go,” Shanahan said. “He’ll be out there practicing today. We’ll take a look at practice… If Tevin’s 100 percent, he’s never a guy we’re going to keep out.”