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49ers Notebook: No Dee Ford and no roster moves could mean snap shuffle on defensive line

© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

For a team that’s only lost one game in 10 tries, there seem to be worries abound regarding the 49ers’ injury situation just about every week. Thus far, it’s not been quite as bad as last year’s trial by torn muscles (though Ronald Blair III and Shawn Poindexter were lost to torn ACLs and Jerick McKinnon and Kentavius Street have lost their seasons to complications with ACL rehab), but there’s never a sense of ease in terms of the 49ers being healthy.

Final status reports

Below are the status reports for Sunday’s game. Both D.J. Jones (groin) and Raheem Mostert (knee) are “good to go,” according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Questionable: George Kittle (knee, ankle), Emmanuel Sanders (rib), Deebo Samuel (shoulder)

Doubtful: Robbie Gould (quadricep), Matt Breida (ankle sprain)

Out: Dee Ford (hamstring, quadricep), Joe Staley (finger)

What should you make of the status reports?

Expect Kittle, Sanders and Samuel to play. They’ve all indicated that’s their intention and all three practiced in non-contact jerseys, but wore pads on Friday. The only remaining name who could play is Gould, but there’s more on him below.

Dee Ford situation could see more of Armstead, Thomas at end

With Ford out for the week, the 49ers are thin at defensive end. Damontre Moore was a one-for-one replacement for Blair and will be the third end in the pecking order behind Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. The return of D.J. Jones at nose tackle is crucial in two aspects. Not only has he been fantastic on the interior this season, but him being active allows Armstead to slot outside more often.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers would not make a move to add another defensive end or lineman, with the only end option being Jeremiah Valoaga on the team’s practice squad.

“No, I don’t see us making a roster move, too late right now,” Shanahan said. “We like what we got, we can mix guys up and get it done here until Dee Ford’s back.”

But should an injury hit one of Bosa, Armstead or Moore, it’s Solomon Thomas who would be the fourth defensive end in the pecking order. Thomas has moved back into the interior this season, and while his numbers aren’t outstanding (16 combined tackles, two sacks), he has looked improved in the limited snaps he’s taken.

Thomas told KNBR he doesn’t expect a drastic increase in snaps on the outside, but acknowledged he’d likely see an increase at end.

“It might be a little more depending with Dee out and having Damontre up,” Thomas said. “So yeah, I’ll probably get some more reps out there.”

C.J. Beathard, kick returner?

Last week, there was a potential situation where the 49ers would have less than 46 active players available, meaning C.J. Beathard could have theoretically been used on special teams. Shanahan said that if the 49ers did have just 45 available players, they would have Beathard active for special teams duties.

In fact, Beathard was so effective in special teams with the scout team, that he earned scout team special teams player of the week. Three players each week are given a personalized jerseys (one player in each phase of the game) for outstanding practice performance.

“He gave us real good looks out there,” Shanahan said. “So, CJ loves the physicality of this game and he can run too.”

Shanahan praised Beathard for his willingness to be physical and his mindset, saying “he’s got the attitude to do it,” but didn’t say what Beathard’s duties were. I asked Shanahan in what capacity Beathard would actually be used on special teams; his answer provided a hilarious mental image.

“Punt returner, kick returner, backup kicker,” Shanahan said, jokingly. “It probably wouldn’t be a huge one. But we would use him if he was up.”

Other notes: Robbie Gould getting closer and Joe Staley’s finger

  • Robbie Gould was back on the 49ers’ side practice field kicking through the uprights for the first time that reporters could see. He was observed hitting a successful 45- and 48-yard field goal. Shanahan said he has been slowly increasing his workload and has “kicked a number of times,” but that he’s had “a little pain and each time he does it, it’s a little bit better. We’re trying to get to where there’s none.” If Gould was not a kicker, Shanahan said he’d play on Sunday, but the team doesn’t want to risk pushing such a temperamental injury back any further.
  • Joe Staley showed off his surgically-repaired right ring finger to reporters Friday and described what happened to it against the Arizona Cardinals. He was limited in practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury. He said the middle socket had shattered after the ligaments in it tore, meaning, as Shanahan said earlier in the week, his finger would have been permanently locked in a downward, palm-facing direction. If it was not addressed through surgery, it would have calcified. Staley said he underwent a two-hour surgery on fairly short notice, and was awake (but not able to see his finger) the whole time. He expects to return next week.

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