After spending the offseason recovering from surgery on both Achilles tendons, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman sat out practice Thursday with a heel injury, the team said. He played the first two games of the season and participated in practice Wednesday.
Sherman was on the practice field walking without a noticeable limp in sneakers while observing individual drills. He had his weekly media briefing beforehand and spoke as if he would play on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are averaging 40 points per game to start the season.
“You just put your hands on them. You get physical. You stay on top and do your job,” Sherman said. “... Hopefully we can execute the game plan.”
Sherman has gotten off to a strong start since joining the 49ers in the spring. He has allowed one catch in 99 coverage snaps in two games, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the best among all cornerbacks.
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The 49ers did not say which heel kept Sherman from practicing, nor did they indicate the severity of the injury. Sherman ruptured his right Achilles during his final game with the Seahawks last November. He also had surgery to remove bone spurs from his left heel in the spring.
Tartt still out — Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt missed practice for the second straight day due to a shoulder injury after leaving the victory over the Lions during the final possession.
The 49ers wouldn’t say how they would replace Tartt should he miss the Chiefs game, though the favorite would be Antone Exum Jr. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said practice squad player Tyvis Powell, who spent the offseason working at cornerback, has also been practicing at strong safety, as has rookie fifth-round pick D.J. Reed.
“That’s another area we’re working through to make sure we can put the best player forward. So, there’s three guys working in that spot while JT is not practicing,” Saleh said.
Saleh also said Jimmie Ward, who played safety last season, has been working primarily at cornerback. Ward would likely replace Sherman if the veteran can’t go in Kansas City.
A new-look group of linebackers? — The 49ers have maintained veteran Malcolm Smith could play on Sunday, though how he would be used is unclear. The team appears happy with rookie Fred Warner calling plays as the “Mike” linebacker while Reuben Foster is expected to start at the other inside position.
That could leave Smith to play “Sam” linebacker, which has been played by Mark Nzeocha during the first two games, unless Smith was used as a reserve. Saleh was asked if he planned on playing Smith with Foster and Warner on the field at once.
“We’ll see. That all depends,” Saleh said. “Saying Malcolm is going to be the ‘Sam’ is not as easy because the ‘Sam’ is totally different than the ‘Mike’ and the ‘Will,’ and that’s hard.”