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Where 49ers stand on injuries: George Kittle and Mohamed Sanu’s chances to play Sunday

© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

An early-season injury pileup has taken hold in Santa Clara. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed the situation Monday and said that players who are injured and unavailable for Sunday’s game will stay behind, remaining in Santa Clara until next week, when they will rejoin the team at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. The 49ers are scheduled to head out on Friday afternoon after practice.

The following are the 49ers’ current injuries and where players stand, including Mohamed Sanu, as of September 16:

  • Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring strain): Practiced in full on Wednesday. Seems likely to play Sunday.
  • Ben Garland (ankle sprain): Practiced in full on Wednesday. Seems likely to play Sunday.
    • Shanahan described Aiyuk and Garland as being roughly “in the same boat” and were close to playing last Sunday. Said Shanahan, “I’m optimistic about it. I know they’re going to get out there today and hopefully they make it through and look good.”
  • George Kittle (knee sprain): Will not practice at least until Friday, status in question for Sunday.
    • This is the Kittle special. It’s clearly a serious injury, but it’s also George Kittle, who is not a normal human. He’ll always say he’s fine, always say he’s ready to go unless his body is physically incapable of participating in a game. He played through a chipped bone in his foot and knee injury last year and has had a torn labrum since 2018, which he has said he will decline to get surgically repaired. Kyle Shanahan sort of pointed to the well, it is Kittle factor.
    • “He fully expects to be there Sunday like he always does,” Shanahan said. “Just like he always plays through the game when it happens, but we’ll give him the whole week… Kittle is one guy that if he’s ready to go on Sunday and the doctors say he’s good to go, we have no problem with him going without practicing.”
  • Mohamed Sanu: Will not be eligible to practice at least until Friday due to COVID testing. He will have a chance to play Sunday, though likely in a limited role.
    • Shanahan confirmed that the 49ers, unlike other players they’ve brought in beforehand like Kevin White and River Cracraft, did not get a chance to work out Sanu because logistically, it was too difficult. They have not seen him perform in person, so if the ankle injury he sustained in Week 10 last season lingered into this year… well, the 49ers haven’t seen the toll its taken.
    • “He’s familiar with the offense,” Shanahan said. “It’s good that we got him done so he can at least listen to our meetings. He can’t be here, but he has an idea of the game plan, can see it all. He’ll be able to get there out at practice, which is a half-speed practice anyways. Mo will do his part. He’s a pro. He’ll learn his responsibilities, what he has to do and basically the decision of whether he’ll play or not probably is going to depend with the health of our other receivers and how that goes this week.”
  • Richie James Jr. (hamstring strain): Did not practice Wednesday, status in question for Sunday. Given the timeline other players have had returning from hamstring injuries, would lean closer to doubtful for his status Sunday.
  • Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion protocol): Did not practice Wednesday, remains in concussion protocol. Status in question for Sunday.
  • Jason Verrett (hamstring strain): Did not practice Wednesday. Status in question for Sunday, though will likely need to practice Thursday and Friday to play.
  • Richard Sherman (calf strain): Placed on injured reserve, sustained the injury during the final defensive series and was replaced by Witherspoon. Eligible to return for the 49ers’ Week 5 game against the Miami Dolphins. The hope is that he returns by then, but that’s far from definitive.
    • “He doesn’t sound too concerned about it,” Shanahan said. Take that with a grain of salt, given that Sherman, like Kittle, regularly plays through injuries and significant pain. “He just is going to need a couple of weeks, we think. Maybe a little bit more, but hoping it’s only three. That’s why we put him on IR.”
  • Tim Harris Jr. (hamstring strain): Placed on practice squad injured reserve, suffered the injury in practice last Friday. Like Sherman, eligible to be activated after the Week 4 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Practice squad injured reserve is the same as injured reserve in that players can return after three games, and once they return to practice, they have a 21-day window to either be activated or return to injured reserve. The difference is that Harris would revert to the practice squad.

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