A 49ers team that has used three high-round draft picks on safeties in recent years has watched each go off the field with injuries over the first five days of training camp.
On Monday it was former second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt who walked slowly to the training room with what coach Kyle Shanahan was a “rib-type” of injury. Tartt had been lining up at free safety with the first-string defense because former first-round pick Jimmie Ward suffered a hamstring strain during the conditioning drill players ran when they reported for camp.
Shanahan has said the hope is that Ward returns around the time of San Francisco’s second preseason game, Aug. 19 against Denver. Another first-round pick, strong safety Eric Reid, sprained his ankle early in Sunday’s session. Reid was seen walking without a limp Monday and the injury does not appear to be long term.
The ailments, however, have left the 49ers thin at safety with a couple of special-teams aces, Vinnie Sunseri and Don Jones, and two undrafted rookies, Lorenzo Jerome and Chanceller James, being called upon to fill the spots on the first- through third-team units.
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Shanahan said Monday the team might have to consider moving one of its cornerbacks who has experience at safety – veteran Will Davis and seventh-round pick Adrian Colbert fit that description – to a new spot in the secondary. The 49ers also have worked out several veteran defensive backs, such as former New Orleans and Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd, and may have to add another player to the roster.
“As those numbers start going (down), we need some more people in there just to get through camp,” Shanahan said. “And whether you adjust a corner or whether you end up signing another guy, it really depends how long those guys are going to be out.”
Despite going undrafted, Jerome and James have jumped out throughout the offseason and both had interceptions in recent days. James, who plays strong safety, also had two big hits on running back Matt Breida in Monday’s session, the type of collisions that grab coaches’ attentions.
“Those are guys who really work at it off the field,” Shanahan said. “So when they get in they take the most out of their opportunities and it gives them a chance with our team.”
Weight watchers – Shanahan said two key players who have battled weight issues in recent years, defensive end Aaron Lynch and tackle Trent Brown, each hit their target weight when they reported to camp.
Brown said he was under the 358-pound mark on Thursday while Lynch weighed in at 273 pounds, well below the 295 to 300 pounds he reached in the offseason.
Lynch consistently has bedeviled the second-team offensive line in training camp and says he feels far more fluid than he did in the spring.
“Thirty pounds makes a big difference in anybody’s body, whatever you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “I definitely feel a lot better coming off the ball. I have a lot more wind, not as tired as I used to be.”
Et cetera – The 49ers waived/injured rookie receiver B.J. Johnson (Georgia Southern), who suffered a torn hamstring on Friday. They claimed undrafted rookie WR Tim Patrick (Utah) off waivers from Baltimore.
▪ The 49ers signed one-time Raiders receiver Louis Murphy to a one-year deal. They waived/injured undrafted rookie outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert, who tore his ACL on Sunday.
▪ Cornerback Keith Reaser (knee) and tight end George Kittle (hamstring) did not practice Monday. Neither injury is believed to be long term. The 49ers have a day off Tuesday, though they have the option of going to the team facilities for massages, acupuncture and an 11 a.m. yoga class.