Kyle Shanahan talks about player injuries following the game
Add up a couple shoulder separations, a couple concussions, a banged knee, a pulled hamstring and, in a twist of good fortune, none of those wounds Thursday night are going to ruin the 49ers’ depth chart for their Sept. 9 season opener.
“We’re hoping they’ll all be available Week 1 to start the season,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday, in the wake of six players getting hurt early in a 24-21, comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
Ruled out of the remaining three exhibitions, however, are tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida, who both sustained shoulder separations. Tests revealed no tears or structural damage to either player’s shoulder, NFL Media first reported.
As for the other injuries, defensive tackle Solomon Thomas and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam are in the post-concussion protocol, outside linebacker Eli Harold has a bruised knee and middle linebacker Malcolm Smith has a hamstring issue that will shelve him this coming week.
The 49ers resume practicing Sunday and Monday, then fly to Houston for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday against the Texans, who will host next Saturday’s exhibition.
A few players who sat out Thursday’s game because of health concerns are slated to rejoin or increase their workouts: guards Jonathan Cooper, Joshua Garnett and J.P. Flynn; linebackers Brock Coyle and Fred Warner; and, wide receiver Trent Taylor.
Neither cornerback Richard Sherman nor defensive tackle Arik Armstead are cleared to test out their hamstring injuries next week, and the same goes for cornerback K’Waun Williams (ankle).
Of all the injured players, Kittle perhaps was most concerting Thursday night. He battled injuries throughout his 43-catch rookie season and reported to this camp in great shape, enhancing his rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo.
If Kittle has durability issues, his coach isn’t saying so. “He’s going to play aggressive and put it all on the line,” Shanahan said. “Unfortunately he dove for a ball and landed awkward on his shoulder. I’m not going to hold that against him.”
Kittle landed on his shoulder attempting to catch a third-down, 40-yard pass on the 49ers’ first possession. Breida got banged up a series later in pass protection after replacing starter Jerick McKinnon.
Offensive line review – Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, this year’s top draft pick, impressed Shanahan in a 23-snap debut that lasted longer than the other offensive starters. “I was real happy with mike. You know, first game for him, that’s why we left him in a little longer,” Shanahan said. “… It’s very easy to see the game is not too big for him. He’s very comfortable out there. … He’s a guy who gets better as the game goes on, because he’s talented but also very smart and doesn’t get overwhelmed with things.”
Mike Person started at right guard and impressed Shanahan playing half the snaps there. But competition for that spot will heat up this week with the expected influx of Cooper and Garnett. Said Shanahan: “I’m anxious. I want to get the best guy there.”
Helmet-law violation – Linebacker Elijah Lee not only became the first 49er penalized under the league’s new helmet-lowering rule, he also got tackling advice – from an official.
“All game, the ref reminded me, ‘You don’t want to be my age and have spinal issues,’ ” Lee said.
Lee, after initially leading with his shoulder, got penalized when he lowered his helmet and struck a Cowboys player in the third quarter at the 49ers’ 5-yard line.
“I was surprised, but at the same time, we practice keeping our head out (of tackles),” Lee said. “Whatever I did, I have to fix that.”
Mullens mania? – Completing 11-of-13 passes, directing a two-minute drill to perfection, producing two touchdown drives and pulling off a comeback put Nick Mullens’ on the 49ers map, even if he was a practice-squad player all last season as an undrafted rookie from Southern Miss.
Of Mullens 141 passing yards, 69 came on the game-winning drive, culminating in a 7-yard touchdown pass to Richie James. “Yeah, it’s fun man,” Mullens said. “You know you’re going to pass it and I like to pass, of course. The receivers did a great job. Guys that we work with every day, the guys up front, we were just very in-tune, very locked in.”
Mullens’ only action last August came in the exhibition finale (7-of-10, 58 yards) as he was fourth string behind Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and current No. 2 quarterback, C.J. Beathard.
Seventh-round gems – Defensive tackle Jullian Taylor and wide receiver Richie James had smashing debuts as seventh-round draft picks.
James totaled a team-high four catches for 46 yards, including the game-winning touchdown catch on a 7-yard pass from Nick Mullens with 18 seconds remaining.
“His athletic ability for such a young guy, it’s impressive,” Garoppolo said. “You know, once you put the mental part of it with the physical part it’ll be something good.”
James also had a 33-yard kickoff return.
“What we love about Richie is he’s fearless with the ball in his hands,” Shanahan said.
Taylor continues to fill in quite capably for Armstead at defensive end. Taylor started on defense, played almost half the snaps and produced one sack and three tackles.
“He made a lot of plays that everyone saw,” Shanahan said. “He also did his job and didn’t make mental mistakes. He played a lot and played good throughout the game.”