Watch No. 2 overall draft pick Nick Bosa practice with 49ers
The early story of the 49ers’ offseason program was the slew of injuries facing coach Kyle Shanahan and his revamped training staff, headlined by new head of player health and performance, Ben Peterson.
Of course, it’s only May, and Shanahan has made it clear the team is being cautious with a number of players working their way back from various ailments in hopes of getting them healthy in time for the start of training camp in late July. Let’s go through San Francisco’s prominent players working their way back heading into the second week of OTAs.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB - ACL
Garoppolo looked sharp Tuesday in his first practice open to reporters since tearing his left ACL last September against the Chiefs. He’s wearing a light-weight titanium brace on the knee which he’s expected to wear throughout the coming season, if not longer. Garoppolo mentioned he’s grown accustomed to the brace and didn’t look encumbered by the injury. However, he was limited to individual and seven-on-seven drills. He isn’t expected to be cleared for full-team activity until training camp where he’ll have to adjust to the surrounding chaos of the trenches. He even admitted to getting into lighthearted disagreements with the medical staff about his workload, indicating he’s ready for more. Unfortunately for Garoppolo, the team will continue to exercise patience and wait two more months before the signal caller can simulate real football again.
Jerick McKinnon, RB - ACL
Shanahan has said he expects McKinnon to be back on the field for training camp after he suffered his ACL tear a week before the 2018 opener. But while his time frame is similar to Garoppolo’s, the rigors of playing running back (running, cutting, blocking, getting tackled far more often) might cause San Francisco to take things slowly to ensure a full recovery. And unlike Garoppolo, the 49ers have the luxury of rotating among their quality group of running backs in the meantime. Starting camp on an injury list isn’t out of the question. It would allow McKinnon to come back after the first six weeks of the regular season and be akin to getting a valuable offensive weapon a the trade deadline and leave a roster spot to be used elsewhere. However, the team has been mostly mum on its exact plans.
Matt Breida, RB - pectoral
Breida suffered a partially torn pectoral while lifting weights earlier this spring. Surely that’s not a good development for the new head strength and conditioning coach Dusitn Perry. Remember, linebacker Malcolm Smith missed all of 2017 with a torn pectoral during training camp. But McKinnnon’s injury is considered far less severe. He was running and active on the practice field this week, indicating the injury shouldn’t keep him on the shelf for long. But it sounds like the 49ers are going to wait until training camp to avoid making it any worse.
Raheem Mostert, RB - fractured arm
Mostert took to social media this week explain the set back regarding the arm he fractured last November. He had a second surgery six weeks ago that Shanahan noted delayed his return by four weeks. Intense swelling led to scar tissue building, Mostert said, which prevented the bone from healing properly. The added time off will help Mostert’s arm heal and get stronger. He’s expected to be full go for camp.
Weston Richburg, C - knee/quad
Richburg had surgery early in the offseason to repair a knee/quad injury he suffered in the first quarter of the Week 4 loss to the Chargers. He missed just one game while playing through the pain last season (his absence was felt when the 49ers lost in Arizona last October, when Erik Magnuson snapped the ball over C.J. Beathard’s head in the final moments preventing a game-tying field goal attempt as time expired). Richburg is also expected back for camp, while Mike Person and Ben Garland rotated at center with the starters on Tuesday. Magnuson sat out with an undisclosed injury.
Jalen Hurd, WR - knee
Hurd appeared healthy at the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month, but the team is monitoring his workload closely following a knee injury leading up to the NFL Draft that prevented from playing in the Senior Bowl. It sounds like his absence on Tuesday was precautionary. With Jordan Matthews, Trent Taylor and Richie James getting reps in the slot, it will be interesting to see how the rookie third-round pick will be worked into the fold when he’s cleared.
Garrett Celek, TE - back, concussion
Turns out Celek hasn’t passed through the concussion protocol since missing the 2018 finale against the Rams with a head injury. However, even if he had, a back injury is keeping Celek from participating in the second phase of OTAs. The team used a sixth-round draft pick on Kaden Smith, brought in undrafted rookie Tyree Mayfield and signed former Lion and Falcon Levin Toilolo, who is familiar with Shanahan’s offense. Incumbent Ross Dwelley is also in the mix with Celek sidelined.
Fred Warner, LB - knee
The sky-high expectations surrounding Warner hit a snag when Shanahan revealed he had his knee scoped during the offseason to clean up a minor injury he had as a rookie while leading the 49ers’ defense in snaps played. And Warner is ceding is snaps at “Mike” to Elijah Lee until training camp. It could also allow rookie fifth-round choice Dre Greenlaw to have a big workload this spring. Warner is expected to be fine for camp.
Kwon Alexander, LB - ACL
Alexander’s time frame could have more variance than any of the team’s other injured players. He could be ready for training camp, or his recovery could last until mid season. It’s impossible to know because the team has been quiet after signing him to a four-year, $54 million deal following his injury last October. Alexander seems likely to start training camp on an injured list, which means Smith, Lee and Greenlaw could be in a heated competition to start at “Will” linebacker come Week 1.
Malcolm Smith, LB - Achilles/ankle
Speaking of Smith, he was held out of full-team drills this week to recover from an ankle/Achilles injury, though Shanahan indicated it was precautionary. Smith suffered a leg injury leading up to training camp last July that cost him valuable time last summer. The 49ers would be wise to take things slowly with the veteran who turns 31 in July.
Nick Bosa, DE - hamstring
Bosa suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain during Tuesday’s practice, which is considered a mild form of the injury. The team said he’ll receive treatment and be out over the next “few weeks,” which makes it likely he won’t be rushed back for mandatory minicamp June 11, exactly three weeks since suffering the injury. The 49ers are going to handle the No. 2 pick with extreme care to make sure he’s good to go when it matters.
Richard Sherman, CB - Achilles/calf
Sherman had surgery after the season to remove sutures from the area surrounding his repaired Achilles. He said he feels much better these days than last season, even after turning 31 in March. Expect Sherman to have a light workload, even during training camp.
Jason Verrett, CB - Achilles
The feeling is Verrett will be ready for camp, though the 49ers would be wise to exercise extreme caution with the former Pro Bowler and first-round draft pick. Verrett’s played just five games since the start of 2016 due to a myriad of injuries, including his Achilles tear during a conditioning test last summer. San Francisco is optimistic about what Verrett can bring to the defense given his immense talent and athleticism. But his health is a big concern. Ahkello Witherspoon played well with the starters on Tuesday and should be motivated to have a good season after his disappointing campaign in 2018.
Jimmie Ward, FS - broken collar bone
Ward ended four of his five seasons with fractured bones -- and now he’s dealing with a broken collar bone for the second time since 2016. The NFL Network reported he would have surgery Friday. He lined up with the starters at free safety on Tuesday and appeared to be the favorite to start over Adrian Colbert, D.J. Reed and Antone Exum. The team said his recovery time is eight to 12 weeks, indicating he should be cleared in time for the start of the regular season, if not sooner.
D.J. Reed, DB - torn labrum
Reed won’t partake in the offseason program following surgery after his rookie season. But the signs are pointing a healthy return for training camp, barring a setback.