SANTA CLARA — First, the 49ers lost their No. 1 running back — Jerick McKinnon. He’s out for the season with a torn ACL. Now, the 49ers don’t have their No. 1 wide receiver, either. Marquise Goodwin will miss Sunday’s home opener against the Detroit Lions with a right thigh bruise.
Goodwin is the fastest player in the NFL. He always is a threat to run past the defense and score a touchdown. His speed creates space for his teammates. Without him, everyone’s job will be more difficult.
“Yes, it is a big deal,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday. “It’s something that you don’t get too down on, even though you could if you sat and thought about it for a while.”
Goodwin has a history of injuries, although he didn’t miss any games last season. But during his first four seasons in the NFL, when he played for the Buffalo Bills, he missed 25 games due to various injuries, and has had four known concussions since 2014.
Last Sunday, Goodwin injured his thigh three minutes into the second quarter. He was running a shallow cross. As he ran over the middle, his right quadriceps collided with the knee of Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Goodwin spun and fell on his back. He returned to the game briefly during the third quarter, but decided he couldn’t play through his injury.
Rookie second-round-pick Dante Pettis replaced Goodwin and played most of the game. Pettis made two catches — a 39-yarder and a 22-yard touchdown grab. He also dropped a pass in the end zone and fumbled a punt.
“He was part of the game plan,” Shanahan said of Pettis. “He knew he was going to get some punt returns, and then very quickly was like, ‘Oh man, I’m running all of these routes I saw Marquise running all week.’ I think it gives him more confidence going into this game knowing he managed and got his way through that. Now, no matter what you tell him, he knows what can happen and I think he’ll be more prepared because of it.”
Pettis will make his first start Sunday, even though he doesn’t yet know the entire 49ers offense. “I’m still getting the hang of it,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a super-complex offense, but I’ve had a lot of reps, so I’m getting the hang of it a little bit.”
Shanahan said he will make things easy for Pettis. “But we’re going to challenge him, too. It’s never going to be totally easy. He’s got to keep working at it. He’s one of the smartest receivers I’ve been around, so I know he’ll be able to get it, but it’s not just about how smart you are. It takes time.”
Goodwin put in the time already. His backups haven’t. Pettis’ backup Sunday will be another rookie who still is learning the offense — seventh-round pick Richie James.
The fourth-string right guard
The 49ers still don’t know for certain who will start at right guard Sunday. But they have a good idea: Undrafted rookie Najee Toran.
Last week, veteran Mike Person started at right guard, strained his right foot, left the game and missed every practice this week. The team listed him as questionable for Sunday, but on Friday he had trouble just walking through the locker room. That’s how much his foot strain still bothers him. He seems like a long shot to play.