Running back Carlos Hyde will land on injured reserve for the third consecutive season, but the centerpiece of the 49ers’ offense is expected to be healthy to begin the 2017 offseason, coach Chip Kelly said Monday.
In Saturday’s 22-21 win over Los Angeles, Hyde suffered a sprained left MCL that will require “a couple of weeks” to heal but will not need surgery, Kelly said. The 49ers’ running backs for Sunday’s season finale against Seattle are expected to be Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris and Mike Davis.
“The fact that it’s a non-surgical thing is the thing that’s positive,” Kelly said. “It’s unfortunate we won’t have him for Seattle, but it’s good news for Carlos.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, might be without starting running back Thomas Rawls, who injured his shoulder Saturday in a 34-31 loss to Arizona. Rawls missed the teams’ Week 3 meeting, a 37-18 Seahawks win, in which backup Christine Michael rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
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Seattle waived Michael in November, and Green Bay claimed him. If Rawls doesn’t play Sunday, rookie Alex Collins likely will start. The Seahawks already have won the NFC West, but their playoff position remains unsettled.
Hyde was injured in the fourth quarter when he caught a short pass from Colin Kaepernick, turned upfield and immediately was hit low by Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines.
Kelly said Kaepernick was pressured on the play and his pass didn’t hit Hyde in stride, forcing him to reach back for the ball and get out of rhythm. Playing behind a makeshift offensive line that at one point featured three rookies, Kaepernick was pressured on 14 dropbacks against the Rams, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Kap was trying to dump it off real quick,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it was exactly out in front of him. He kind of had to turn back to catch it.”
The 49ers built their 2016 offense around Hyde, who improved markedly in Kelly’s offense in the second half of the season. That included his ability as a pass catcher, a role he performed sparingly in his first two seasons in the league.
All three of Hyde’s touchdown catches, including a 19-yard score Saturday, and 97 of his 163 receiving yards came after a midseason shoulder injury that sidelined him for two games.
“I think he’s done a really nice job of catching the ball out of the backfield,” Kelly said. “Obviously, he caught the first touchdown on Saturday for us, did a good job on his routes, has done a nice job on the run after the catch.”
Hyde’s rookie season in 2014 ended because of an ankle injury, and last season he broke his foot. He entered this season seeking 1,000 rushing yards and finished with 988.
Et cetera – Kelly said he hasn’t spoken with CEO Jed York or the team’s ownership about his status for next season but expects that conversation at some point after Sunday’s finale.
▪ The 49ers players had their first “Win Monday” of the season. They reported early in the morning but were gone before noon. The team’s only other victory this season came on a Monday night, eliminating the chance for “Win Monday.”
▪ Kelly said he didn’t know whether offensive left tackle Joe Staley, who has missed the last three games because of a strained hamstring, will play against Seattle. The 49ers’ offensive line was overmatched for most of Saturday’s game, but Trent Brown earned a good grade in his first start at left tackle.