San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard walked to the podium inside Levi’s Stadium on Tuesday with his right wrist heavily wrapped. He also had gashes on the bridge of his nose and forehead resulting from a hit by safety Antoine Bethea in the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
So coach Kyle Shanahan gave the banged-up Beathard the afternoon off from walk-throughs because he was struggling to grip a football. Beathard could be a game-time decision to play Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders, Shanahan said.
“C.J. would be good if we were playing on Sunday,” Shanahan said. “But, it’s going to be a test for Thursday and probably won’t know until then.”
Shanahan would have to turn to second-year pro Nick Mullens in the event Beathard misses Thursday’s game. Mullens, 21, has not taken a regular-season snap and began the season on the practice squad, which is where he spent all of 2017 after going undrafted out of Southern Mississippi. He was elevated to the active roster after Jimmy Garoppolo sustained his season-ending knee injury last month.
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Beathard said he expects to play, even if he can’t throw to his receivers over the next 48 hours during the 49ers’ abbreviated practices.
Beathard has played with injuries throughout his career, dating to his time at Iowa, when he played through a painful sports hernia in 2015. He helped guide the 12-2 Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl while playing in all 14 games.
“My wrist and thumb are kind of messed up. It’s two days after the game, so hopefully (Wednesday), it will feel a lot better,” Beathard said.
The 49ers earlier this month brought in former Texans quarterback Tom Savage as insurance. Savage has 13 NFL games under his belt, including nine starts, while Mullens is still waiting to make his debut.
But Shanahan said Mullens would replace Beathard because Savage hasn’t taken practice reps and had time to learn the offense.
“Just the whole offense and everything, that would have to be limited just because that’s too much for a guy to learn, any guy in the world to me, in this amount of time,” Shanahan said. “Just spitting it out and calling the plays and getting everyone lined up and knowing where people are, so you’d have to tail back a little bit on that.”
There’s logic behind resting Beathard. The 49ers won’t play again until Nov. 12, when they host the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. That would give Beathard’s wrist an additional 11 days to recover and San Francisco a chance to see what Mullens has. The 49ers, after all, are 1-7.
Two players released; two more to be activated? - The 49ers released reserve receiver Victor Bolden Jr. and backup cornerback Greg Mabin.
Those moves presumably clear roster spots for rookie safety Marcell Harris and linebacker Dekoda Watson, a fixture on special teams, to be activated off injured reserve. Both had practice windows opened in recent weeks and could be eligible to make their season debuts against Oakland.
Harris could end up starting because of injuries to fellow strong safeties Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and Antone Exum Jr. (concussion). Shanahan ruled out Exum and said Tartt was questionable. Tartt has dealt with his ailment since Week 1 and missed two games.
Harris, a sixth-round pick, missed all of 2017 with an Achilles’ tear and played sparingly during training camp.
“We feel good about what we saw in college and what he can and can’t do,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “There’s going to be some fundamental stuff that he needs to work on. Obviously, he hasn’t had the tracking reps, the tackling reps, the going through the fire of snapping things out of his mouth from a communication standpoint. So, it’s going to be trial by fire, just like it is for a lot of these young guys.”
The 49ers’ other option at strong safety is Tyvis Powell, who was forced into action Sunday and got picked on by Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Powell was the closest player in coverage during Arizona’s fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Christian Kirk.