© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The weeks in which the 49ers haven’t worried about injuries amounts to just about none. This week is no different, and heading into the toughest part of the schedule with no bye week or additional rest in sight until after Week 16, the injury pileup is coming at a most unwelcome time.
Dee Ford could miss multiple weeks
Ford limped off the end of the first half after sacking Kyler Murray. A week ago, Ronald Blair III tore his right ACL making an open-field tackle on Russell Wilson. It’s been a rough pair of weeks for 49ers defensive ends tackling mobile quarterbacks and when they play the Baltimore Ravens in two weeks, they’ll see Lamar Jackson, who might be the most mobile of them all.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday that Ford suffered a hamstring strain and acknowledged it could be a multiple week injury.
“Yes. Anytime you have a hamstring strain, there’s concern it could be a couple weeks.” Shanahan said. “We’ll see how this week goes, not sure yet [on his status… We might [have to make a move], we’ll see how it is, but not for sure yet.”
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) November 19, 2019
As it stands, Nick Bosa and Damontre Moore are the only two out-and-out defensive ends who appear to be fully healthy. Arik Armstead has played plenty of time on the outside this season and could be asked to do more there if Ford is indeed out for an extended period. While Solomon Thomas has played at defensive end, he’s mainly been used on the interior this season and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has spoken to that being his more natural position.
The only other in-house options the 49ers have are practice squad defensive tackle Kevin Givens, practice squad defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga and Kentavius Street, who’s on injured reserve. On that note…
Shanahan optimistic on Kentavius Street, Jason Verrett returns from IR
I spoke to Street last week about where he was at in his rehab. He said then that he’s in the process of “fine tuning” and that he feels ready to go back to practice if called to. While Shanahan said he views Street as more of an interior player, he played defensive end at NC State and said he feels comfortable playing on the outside. At the very least, his promotion would provide more cover on the interior, if the 49ers should push Armstead or Thomas out wide more frequently.
Shanahan said he’s seen progress from Street, who is active doing rehab drills on the sidelines during practices, and Verrett, who’s been seen on the field in at least the past two games.
“Those are guys that are working hard to get back,” Shanahan said. “If we definitely had an injury at a certain spot, we’d probably make that decision sooner rather than later, but they’re guys that regardless, even if those injuries don’t happen, they’re guys who want to get back out there to practice, guys that have worked to get back and we think will be healthy enough to. We’ll see if need be because of injuries, but if not, they have a chance to get back out on the practice field.
They’re getting healthy. I think both of them will have an opportunity to do [return from injured reserve]. It’s not something we’ll do right now, but definitely could be an option if we have injuries at that position.”
The latest Shanahan said the team would open the three-week practice window for Street and Verrett would be the 13th or 14th weeks, but it could be sooner. Should the team lose somebody at a “specific spot,” Shanahan said the team would “probably speed that process up,” because a replacement will be found within the team. If it’s a like-for-like replacement, rather than increased snaps on the outside for Armstead and/or Thomas, that could mean Valoaga gets promoted.
… While Hurd is all but ruled out
It’s all but certain that Jalen Hurd will not return for the 49ers this season, meaning that like Street last year, he’ll lose his rookie season to injured reserve. He was initially deemed out with “back tightness” in training camp after a two-touchdown preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. That was revealed to be a stress reaction in his back, which saw him placed on injured reserve before Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Shanahan insinuated an official announcement might be coming later in the week.
“It has not been looking good. That’s kind of out of sight, out of mind for me right now,” Shanahan said. “We might have something on finalizing that later this week… I’m not thinking about it right now.”
Other injuries and why Witherspoon didn’t start
- Shanahan said that Azeez Al-Shaair did not pass his physical tests on Saturday, but hopes that he’ll be out of concussion protocol on Wednesday.
- Matt Breida (ankle sprain) and D.J Jones (groin) are in the “same situation” and Shanahan said “we’ll see how this week progresses,” with them. Both could well remain out this week
- George Kittle (knee, ankle) was “close enough to not rule him out” last Sunday, but “I know it’s enough to keep most people out some time… I know it will go down to the wire again this week.”
- Emmanuel Sanders is “in the same boat he started last week,” but Shanahan said he hoped he’d be “a little bit better this week.”
- Deebo Samuel had a shoulder injury but returned and K’Waun Williams suffered a stinger and also returned. Shanahan said he “should be fine.”
- The reason that Emmanuel Moseley started over Ahkello Witherspoon in Witherspoon’s first game back since suffering a foot sprain in Week 3 is that the 49ers walked through most of their practices last week, “88 percent,” according to Shanahan. At the start of the week, Shanahan said he needed to see a full week of practice from Witherspoon, but with the lack of full-speed reps, he said, “Without getting the right amount of practice time in, it really wasn’t much of a decision.”