The 49ers have been slammed so hard by injuries that Kyle Shanahan had to pause Monday when asked who his starting left tackle would be against the Arizona Cardinals.
“That’s a good question,” the coach said eventually. “I don’t know yet.”
Heading into the midpoint of the season, tackle was one of the team’s few strengths with Joe Staley and Trent Brown manning the left and right side, respectively. Brown was held out of Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia while Staley suffered a fractured eye socket when he was struck by Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox during an interception return.
The 11-year veteran won’t need surgery, but Shanahan said injured reserve – which likely would end Staley’s season – is a possibility. At the least, Shanahan said Staley will sit out through San Francisco’s Nov. 19 bye.
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The team’s top reserve at the position, Garry Gilliam, will go on injured reserve with a knee injury. Zane Beadles, whose normal position is guard, had to fill in at one tackle spot in Philadelphia while another interior lineman, rookie Erik Magnuson, played right tackle.
Safety Jimmie Ward’s season also is over after he fractured his left forearm in the first quarter Sunday.
Ward’s 2014 and 2016 seasons also ended with him on injured reserve with foot and shoulder issues, respectively. Shanahan said there’s a possibility that Eric Reid, whom the team recently moved to linebacker, would go back to strong safety so that Jaquiski Tartt could play Ward’s free-safety spot during the second half of the season.
Among the injury items Shanahan relayed Monday:
▪ The 49ers will be without their top draft pick, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, until at least after the bye week. Thomas suffered a sprained knee ligament in the second half Sunday.
▪ Shanahan said he had been optimistic that first-round pick Reuben Foster would play in Philadelphia. However, the linebacker, who had dealt with a rib injury a week earlier, experienced back spasms on the cross-country flight and Shanahan said it was obvious during warm-ups that Foster wasn’t ready to play.
▪ Brown is making progress after last week’s concussion but his status for this week is unknown.
▪ Guard Brandon Fusco dealt with a biceps strain and struggled to finish the game. If he had left, the 49ers would have been forced to play tight end Garrett Celek at tackle. Shanahan said Fusco will be “very limited” in practice this week.
▪ Two rookies, nose tackle D.J. Jones and running back Matt Breida, suffered knee injuries. Jones is not expected to play this week; Breida has a mild ligament sprain and his status is unknown.
▪ The team’s top receiver, Pierre Garcon, will be questionable this week with a neck injury. Garcon said he thought he’d play against the Cardinals.
Ward and Gilliam will be the 16th and 17th players the 49ers have placed on injured reserve this year. Ward joins Arik Armstead (hand) and Joshua Garnett (knee) as recent first-round picks who won’t be able to finish the season.
Asked if there’s a thread to all the injuries, Shanahan said, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask God. I don’t know the exact reason it happens.”