The 49ers are officially going to be without their starting free safety Jimmie Ward for Sunday’s season opener, Kyle Shanahan said Friday.
Ward had surgery to repair a fractured finger on Thursday after sustaining the injury during Wednesday’s practice when his hand got tangled in another player’s jersey. The team is hoping Ward can play in some sort of cast starting Week 2 in Cincinnati.
“You wouldn’t choose to (play with a cast),” Shanahan said. “It’s easier to catch the ball when you have two hands, but as long as you can protect it with the cast where you can jam people and tackle people, which very rarely do you make tackles with your fingers. It’s definitely annoying but it’s something you can do.”
Second-year pro Tarvarius Moore is likely to start at free safety in Ward’s absence Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What happens at slot cornerback, where Ward also played in the third preseason game, is more uncertain. K’Waun Williams returned to practice this week after missing the entire preseason due to arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s listed as questionable to play Sunday, as is cornerback Jason Verrett following an early-August ankle sprain.
Shanahan also confirmed the 49ers will be without receivers Trent Taylor (fractured foot) and Jalen Hurd (back stiffness). Taylor is expect to resume field work during practice next week but his prognosis is unclear. The 49ers will travel to Youngstown, Ohio after playing in Tampa to save a avoid cross-country flights before playing in Cincinnati Week 2.
Shanahan indicated he’s optimistic starting center Weston Richburg, listed as questionable, could make his return after having surgery in the winter to re-attach his quadriceps muscle to his knee cap. He couldn’t bend his knee for roughly six weeks following the procedure. Richburg returned to practice this week and took first-team reps from Ben Garland, who replaced him in training camp and the preseason.
“I do think he’s got a chance (to start),” Shanahan said of Richburg. “He’s had a good week. It’s gotten better each day. The big thing is traveling this far. We want to see how it reacts on the plane. Sometimes guys who are going through things it can swell up a little bit. We’ll see how he is tomorrow, but it’s been a solid week.”
Defensive end Nick Bosa is also listed as questionable, though he’s expected to play. Bosa missed the entire preseason following a high ankle sprain Aug. 7 and returned to practice this week.
“Definitely not all the way there yet, but (Bosa) had a good week,” Shanahan said. “I’m encouraged about it.”
McKinnon has surgery
Running back Jerick McKinnon was back in the locker room Friday following another surgery on his right knee that landed him on season-ending injured reserve last week. It was the same knee in which he tore his ACL a week before the 2018 regular season, but Tuesday’s procedure wasn’t needed to fix his ACL, he said.
“Different part of the knee,” said McKinnon on crutches with his knee in a bulky wrap and brace. “When I talked to the medical team, had MRIs, the issues that happened last year were the meniscus and ACL didn’t look great. And that was reassuring for me (this time). Just one of those things that happened that is kind of hard to avoid, you have no control over it.”
McKinnon signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers in 2018 and will have gone two straight seasons without appearing in a game. He’s slated to have salary cap figures of $8.5 and $9.2 million over the next two seasons, though he’s unlikely to make that money coming off two knee surgeries and two missed seasons.
The 49ers will likely restructure McKinnon’s contract or release him before his guarantees vest next April.
Team captains named
Shanahan said the 49ers voted on five team captains this week. They are Joe Staley, Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, DeForest Buckner and Richard Sherman. It marks the first time Garoppolo has been named a captain.
The team had five captains last season which were named before Week 8, well after Garoppolo went down with his season ending knee injury Week 3. Robbie Gould was a captain in 2018 but didn’t receive the same designation this year.
Gould signed a four-year contract in July worth up to $19 million after holding out for a new deal during the offseason program.
▪ The 49ers on Friday released defensive back Adrian Colbert (hamstring) and receiver Nick Williams (undisclosed) with injury settlements, according to the NFL’s transaction wire.