Just as soon as he returned, Elijah Mitchell is back on the sidelines. After suffering an MCL sprain inb Week 1, the second-year back made his return to action against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10.
He’d been getting the heavier dose of carries in the second half of games, giving the 49ers arguably the best rushing attack in the league, perhaps only behind the Cleveland Browns’ Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
But on the first offensive play of the second half, Mitchell suffered another MCL sprain. While Kyle Shanahan said Sunday that the team thought it wasn’t as serious as last one, the tone shifted Monday.
The 49ers didn’t get the news they were hoping for, Shanahan told reporters. Mitchell’s sprain was similar to the first one and he’s expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.
With six games remaining, that gives him a chance to return for the start of the playoffs. He’ll likely be placed on injured reserve.
Unlike in prior seasons, the league amended injured reserve rules again. Teams can have eight returns from injured reserve. Players have to spend a minimum of four games on the list and then can open a 21-day practice return window at any point after.
The 49ers have had six returns so far, in Mitchell, Azeez Al-Shaair, Jimmie Ward, Curtis Robinson, Colton McKivitz and Jordan Willis. Mitchell’s second return would make that number six. The only other player on injured reserve currently that could return is Javon Kinlaw. If both return, that would be it for the 49ers.
Elsewhere, though, there was relatively good news. Christian McCaffrey was dealing with knee irritation but returned to the game on Sunday and will be “managed” this week. It does not sound like a serious injury, but there are definite questions about what his usage will look like without Mitchell.
Ty Davis-Price has been inactive behind Jordan Mason due to special teams considerations, but Shanahan said the team has wanted to get him opportunities and he’ll certainly see some this weekend.
Spencer Burford also suffered an ankle sprain and was wearing a walking boot in the locker room after the game. Shanahan said the team is hoping to get him back “later in the week.”
While there was a brief Jimmy Garoppolo scare, there was “nothing serious” with him, though Shanahan said he was “pretty sore” and hopes that soreness eases by Wednesday.
Lastly, there are positive signs for Arik Armstead, who hasn’t played since Week 4 at the Los Angeles Rams. He made his return to practice on Friday and “looked good,” per Shanahan.
He’s expected to practice on Wednesday and could make his long-awaited return this weekend.