CLEVELAND -- Running back Carlos Hyde, who hasn’t played a snap for the 49ers since Oct. 22, won’t play again this season after the team placed him on injured reserve Saturday. The 49ers used his roster spot to elevate tight end Brian Leonhardt from the practice squad.
Hyde, 24, suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during an Oct. 11 loss to the Giants. He played in the next two games but found the discomfort too overwhelming. He took the next six weeks off with the hope that the fracture would begin to heal on its own and that the pain would reduce.
It didn’t, however, and the 49ers needed the roster spot. Asked about stress fractures in October, orthopedists said the usual course of action for so-called Jones’ fractures is for a patient to have surgery and to insert a screw into the foot. Jim Tomsula has said that option has been discussed with Hyde but it’s believed that Hyde has resisted that course of action to this point.
Despite missing the last five games, Hyde remains the 49ers’ leading rusher with 470 yards and three touchdowns. He opened the season in a jarring way, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 1 blowout of Minnesota. However, he never reached the 100-yard mark in the next six games and scored only one more touchdown.
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Shaun Draughn has started the last four games at running back and is expected to start Sunday against the Browns.
The 49ers, meanwhile, bulked up a suddenly meager tight end corps by promoting Leonhardt from the practice squad.
The 49ers had eight tight ends on their roster during training camp and the team banked on the position being the strength of the offense. General manager Trent Baalke, however, traded three of them -- in order: Asante Cleveland, Derek Carrier and Vernon Davis -- while others succumbed to injury. Another tight end, rookie Busta Anderson, is on injured reserve.
Garrett Celek was placed on injured reserve this week with a high-ankle sprain while Vance McDonald will miss Sunday's game with a concussion sustained against the Bears. Until Leonardt was activated, the 49ers had just one true tight end, rookie Blake Bell, on the 53-man roster, although a host of players, from fullback Bruce Miller to longsnapper Kyle Nelson, could fill in if pressed into action.
Leonhardt, 25, is familiar to 49ers tight ends coach Tony Sparano having played last year for a Raiders team on which Sparano served as interim head coach for the last 12 contests.
Leonhardt started three games for Oakland in 2014 and caught six passes for 35 yards, including a three-yard touchdown against the Dolphins. He played collegiately at Bemidji State, which is Baalke's alma mater.