San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Chris Biderman’s five players to watch
Richard Sherman says he isn’t expecting to play Sunday against the Chargers and noted his recent calf injury wasn’t directly related to the two procedures he had on his lower legs during the offseason.
Rather, the calf strain the 49ers cornerback suffered in Kansas City was the result of the time off recovering from those injuries.
“It’s just me not playing in eight months,” Sherman said Thursday, “getting back out there and going through the trials and tribulations of the season, the wear and tear of football, taking all these reps after not taking them for eight months. Your body’s got to get used to doing it again.”
Sherman, wearing a walking boot on his left foot since Sunday’s game, underwent surgery to remove bone spurs on his left heel in March. He ruptured his right Achilles in November in his last game with the Seahawks.
The 49ers will likely take it slowly with Sherman while he recovers. They plan on changing his weekly practice schedule once he’s healthy, similar to veteran tackle Joe Staley, who gets Wednesdays off.
“He’s going through some stuff, as he will probably be all year,” Kyle Shanahan said last week after giving Sherman Thursday to rest. “Don’t want him going hard for all three days (of practice).”
Over a full season, Sherman said getting a day off each week could add up to running “4,000 to 5,000” fewer yards.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh noted Sherman has a high pain tolerance, and he saw it first-hand when he was an assistant with the Seahawks. Sherman appeared in 117 straight games for Seattle, including the playoffs, before suffering his Achilles injury midway through last season. He said he played through a torn hamstring in 2016, but it never showed up on the weekly injury report.
“Sherm is a fighter,” Saleh said. “Sherm will play through pain. He’s played through a torn hamstring, I’ve witnessed it, back in his younger days. He’s not always 100 percent, so when he can reach that pain tolerance, and it’s an unbelievable pain tolerance he’s got, he’ll get out there. So, I’m not ready to push the panic button on him yet, not even close.”
The 30-year-old strained his calf on a Chiefs rushing play just before the two-minute warning and didn’t return. It forced San Francisco to re-insert Ahkello Witherspoon to play opposite Jimmie Ward.
Sherman’s absence Sunday in Los Angeles makes it likely Ward gets consecutive starts at cornerback for the first time since 2016. Ward got the nod in Kansas City in place of Witherspoon, who struggled the previous week against Detroit while playing with an ankle injury.
Ward played free safety last season and transitioned back to the outside in the spring following the emergence of rookie Adrian Colbert. Ward was credited with two combined tackles against the Chiefs and earned praise from Sherman for transitioning through multiple roles in recent seasons.
“As anybody who’s played would know, none of those positions play the same and none of them are the same preparation,” Sherman said. “The way you see the field. So for him to come in and play corner like he did, I’m real proud of him.”
Awaiting the 49ers Sunday is the Chargers’ fifth-ranked offense orchestrated by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and his array of weapons, including shifty receiver Keenan Allen and big-bodied second-year pro Mike Williams, who already has three touchdown receptions.
San Francisco enters the week with the sixth-worst scoring defense in the NFL, allowing opponents 29.7 points per game. It allowed touchdowns on all five first-half possession against the Chiefs, thanks largely to missed tackles, of which the 49ers had 17, according to Pro Football Focus.
“It comes down to tackling and third down,” Saleh said. “It is that simple because if we take care of those third-and-long situations, as a defensive unit, coaches included, I feel like there’s three field goals (for the Chiefs) and a non-touchdown and the outlook is a completely different deal.”