Some injured 49ers not ready to return
The 49ers won’t have pass rusher Dee Ford (hamstring) and left tackle Joe Staley (finger) for Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
But the team is hopeful star tight end George Kittle (knee, ankle) and top receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder) will play. They were listed as questionable this week after practicing Thursday and Friday in blue non-contact jerseys.
Running back Matt Breida (ankle) and kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps) were listed as doubtful.
Ford, who’s played more than 40% of the snaps in just two games with tendinitis in his knee, will be missing his first game of the season since being acquired via trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in March. With 6½ sacks, he’s been a crucial member of the team’s revamped pass rush that ranks first in the NFL with 39 sacks.
San Francisco enters the weekend as the NFL’s only team with four players with five or more sacks. The others: Arik Armstead (8), rookie Nick Bosa (7) and DeForest Buckner (5). Ford sustained the injury while sacking Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in the first half of Sunday’s game and didn’t return.
The 49ers lost top reserve defensive end Ronald Blair III to an ACL tear Nov. 11 against the Seahawks, meaning they’re thin at the position with Ford out. They’ll likely rely on recently acquired Damontre Moore for an increased workload, as well as playing Armstead and third-year pro Solomon Thomas more often along the edges against star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Co.
Staley had surgery on his right ring finger following the Seattle game. Without the procedure, his finger would have been permanently bent forward at a 90-degree angle. Staley was listed as a limited participant in Friday’s practice with a splint and wrap on his finger. He’s scheduled to meet with doctors Monday to see if he can resume practicing ahead of the following game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Meanwhile, all signs are pointing to Kittle making his return after missing the past two games with left leg injuries. He returned to practice Thursday and said his goal is to play Sunday.
“This week, I think if it was a normal person, I’d probably make him doubtful,” Kyle Shanahan said. “But Kittle’s different than most people and, as I said, he won’t allow me to rule him out too early because he keeps telling me he’s going to surprise me by game day. We’ve got a little bit more time this week and he’s a little bit ahead.”
Sanders initially sustained his rib injury against Seattle but still managed to play last week against the Cardinals despite not practicing beforehand. Sanders running routes and catching passes this week bodes well for his chances Sunday.
Breida would miss his second straight game as the team hopes to get the fleet-footed running back healthy in time for the stretch run after persistent ankle injuries bothered him throughout last season. The 49ers have more depth at running back this year with the addition of Tevin Coleman joining Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., who scored the winning touchdown against the Cardinals last week.
Gould hasn’t played since Oct. 31 against the Cardinals due to a quad injury sustained during a mid-week practice. He was seen kicking field goals as long as 45 yards on a side field under the watchful eyes of general manager John Lynch and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower.
The 49ers are being cautious with their kicker after he signed a four-year contract in July that includes more than $10 million in guarantees over the next two seasons.
“If it was another position, he would definitely be good enough to go,” said Shanahan, “but like I was trying to explain earlier in the week, when it’s a kicker, you never know until they get a few of those big kicks in a game. You do that in pregame warmups and they’re out and now you’re in a big bind and you don’t have him for five weeks.”
Replacement kicker Chase McLaughlin has made 4 of 5 kicks and all four extra points in two games. His lone miss, of course, was the potential game-winner against the Seahawks from 47 yards.