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Kittle, Gould’s statuses become clearer, Taylor’s season lost to nightmare of complications

© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers will head into Monday night with a likely triplet of returnees while simultaneously losing a pair, and having to wait one more week for an additional reinforcement.

Don’t hold your breath on Kittle

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said George Kittle is one of the few guys who could play without practicing for the 49ers. He was not active, even in limited fashion, for any of the 49ers’ four practices this week with a knee and ankle injury that Shanahan implied were revealed on MRI.

Shanahan said he has some hope solely because of Kittle’s warrior-like nature.

“Just because it’s George. If it was any other player, I would probably say he’s out,” Shanahan said. “If it goes like this, he will be out. George isn’t a guy who needs to be out at practice. We know he’s doing everything he can and we’ll see how he feels on Monday, but things would have to change.”

With Kittle very likely out, the 49ers have two active tight ends in Levine Toilolo and Ross Dwelley. They do, however, have Kyle Juszczyk returning, and as the 49ers’ Saturday game status report showed, none of Juszczyk, Toilolo, or Matt Breida are in question to play. Toilolo was limited in Saturday’s practice with a groin injury, while Juszczyk, Breida and Dee Ford practiced with full participation on Saturday for the first time this week.

The 49ers’ tight end and fullback positions are a bit outside the norm in that they’re not viewed internally as set positions. When Dwelley had to replace Juszcyk at fullback, he explained to reporters that he’d technically been operating as a fullback all season. Juszczyk reaffirmed that on Saturday.

“When I went down where guys are just going to fill in in that position. So in my case, Ross came in there and we didn’t change too much schematically,” Juszczyk said. “Kyle didn’t just draw up a new offense when one guy went down. We feel like we have guys that can step in and fill the role of even key starters if they need to… A tight end doesn’t only do tight end things. They really are just kind of nameless position. We all kind of do similar things.”

Despite that positional flexibility, Shanahan acknowledged there could be a move made to bolster the tight end group. The two in-house options are practice squad tight end Daniel Helm and Garrett Celek, who began practicing this week while remaining on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Neither seemed to be viewed as likely options, however, with Shanahan saying of Helm, “He is the tight end on our practice squad, so, maybe. But, we could go other spots, too. Depends on how we want to balance it out. We could go short at tight ends and add to other positions. Maybe we’ll get two kickers up. You never know.”

Celek himself said it would “be awesome” to play again, but didn’t think it was likely he’d be activated.

“Yeah, definitely a possibility [of a transaction],” Shanahan said. “[Celek] had a real good week of practice. We only have one day of pads, though, so there’s only so much stuff like that. He obviously moves around really good right now. He’s healthy, he’s played a lot of football in his career, but you’d definitely rather give someone a few more weeks to get acclimated back into the stuff, so we’ll see if we have to make that move or not.”

Shanahan told NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco that if Kittle can’t go, they would likely activate Celek.

Rookie kicker time

Robbie Gould was the only other 49ers player outside of Kittle to be listed as doubtful. He suffered a right quad strain in practice on Tuesday and did not practice the rest of the week. The team signed rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin as a backup for Gould. He spent three games from Weeks 6 through 8 with the Los Angeles Chargers this season and is 6-for-9 on field goals.

McLaughlin was undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Illinois (where he was a First Team All Big-Ten player in his senior year) before being signed and later waived by the Buffalo Bills, and then added to the Chargers’ roster.

Shanahan said he doesn’t expect Kittle or Gould to be absent for long, saying he views both as being day-to-day.

An excess of woe for Trent Taylor

Trent Taylor won’t be returning for the 49ers this season. Shanahan revealed in great detail the horrendous series of setbacks he suffered after what was initially viewed as a minor fracture. Taylor suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in practice just before the 49ers’ first preseason game, and was believed to be on the path to returning for the start of the regular season.

Instead, he found himself placed on injured reserve during the 49ers’ bye week, with a possible return coming by Week 12 versus the Green Bay Packers. That, too, was ruled out after complications.

As Shanahan explained, the recovery timeline for his first surgery, to insert a screw and let the fracture heal, was supposed to be four weeks. The bone healed, but the area around it became irritated and Taylor needed to have the surgery once more, yet again with an expectation to heal after four weeks. This time, the wound became infected, as was discovered when his foot was examined two weeks following the second surgery. After that prognosis, the team realized his season was effectively lost.

“Once he had the setback for the second surgery, he was just going to go until Week 8 instead of Week 4,” Shanahan said. “Once the infection happened, then he really got behind the eight ball on that. So, it’s just been as unfortunate as a guy could have. I know he’s pretty upset about it, but that’s why I don’t expect him back this year. But I know he’ll be back here next year and we are very glad he will be.” 

Other notes:

  • The Seahawks had every single player (not included their group on injured reserve) practice on Saturday, with just two players listed as questionable and none as doubtful for Monday’s game. Guard Phil Haynes (ankle) and safety Delano Hill (elbow) are the only two questionables for Seattle heading into Monday night.
  • While Ahkello Witherspoon (quad strain and foot sprain) practiced again in limited capacity on Saturday, he said on Thursday that “I’m not healthy enough to play football right now.” It would seem he’s about a week out.
  • The only return of the trio of Juszcyzk, Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey that has seemed in question is McGlinchey’s, though it appears more likely than not that he’ll play. Both he and Staley are listed as questionable with Juszczyk not on the game status report, indicating that he’ll play. McGlinchey said earlier this week that main area to improve before returning was conditioning.

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