The 49ers’ injured tight ends, Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald, were able to do some light running Friday, but both missed their third day of practice and are question marks for Sunday’s game in Arizona.
Davis, who led the 49ers in touchdown catches last season, is dealing with a badly bruised right ankle. He was still walking with a limp Friday but said he’s been making steady progress throughout the week, which included running and catching passes from the JUGGs machine while teammates practiced.
That was corroborated by McDonald, who is dealing with a knee injury.
“He looked really good,” McDonald said of Davis. “It was like night and day from (Thursday).”
Still, neither tight end practiced during the week, and they are listed as questionable on the 49ers’ injury report. The team’s medical staff will observe how they perform Sunday before the game before determining whether they can play.
“Feeling great right now, just have to take it nice and slow, and it’s all on how I feel,” said Davis, adding that he didn’t need to practice to be able to play Sunday.
Derek Carrier is the only healthy tight end on the team’s 53-man roster. He had his first NFL catches against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 and likely will play plenty of snaps against the Cardinals.
Other options include increasing fullback Bruce Miller’s workload or perhaps tapping long snapper Kyle Nelson, who is bigger and more athletic than his predecessors at the position and is capable of playing tight end.
Coach Jim Harbaugh raved about the tackle Nelson made after snapping the ball on a punt against Chicago.
“He’s a snapper that’s also like a third gunner,” he said. “He’s got that kind of athletic ability. And you don’t find that often in snappers, because their No. 1 job, and the job that’s more important and matters – paramount – is snapping the ball firm and in the right spot. To be able to do both of those? That’s quite a thing.”
Nelson (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) also caught two touchdown passes in the 49ers’ preseason finale against the Houston Texans.
“Anything is possible,” Harbaugh said when asked if Nelson could play tight end. “You always like to have those options and have your opponent think that there could be any option available.”
“I think that’s the standard,” Harbaugh said of placing the quarterback on the injury list. “Pretty much anything that somebody says they have or needs treatment for. My back’s a little tight, too. (Addressing a public relations staffer) Add myself to the list there.”
• The Cardinals announced Drew Stanton would start at quarterback instead of Carson Palmer, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. It will be the fifth time in the their last seven meetings the 49ers have faced Arizona’s backup.
• Former Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, who was released from the 49ers’ practice squad earlier this week, has a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday.