There’s more disconcerting news on the 49ers’ injury front ahead of Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
San Francisco on Thursday placed rookie receiver Jalen Hurd and veteran cornerback Jason Verrett on injured reserve.
Hurd, a third-round draft pick from Baylor, was expected to return in the coming weeks following a back injury sustained during joint practices with the Denver Broncos in August after catching a pair of touchdown passes in the preseason opener.
Verrett appeared in his first game Week 3 since the 2017 season opener and aggravated a knee injury during his four snaps on defense and 10 on special teams. He was in the mix to replace Ahkello Witherspoon, who’s expected to miss multiple games with a foot injury.
Verrett appeared in just six games since 2015 following a 2017 ACL tear and torn Achilles that cost him all of 2018. He sprained his ankle during a training camp practice Aug. 7 that prevented him from appearing in the preseason before being inactive during weeks 1 and 2.
“We definitely like the player and the person we gambled on,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s done everything he can to get back. The most unfortunate thing for him was, when you have that much football off because of some pretty serious injuries and then you get a pretty bad ankle sprain in your fourth or fifth day of practice, he missed all of it again and then he’s trying to come back from his normal stuff, which he had the chance to, but he had a little bit of a setback from it and that just put him behind the eight ball too much.”
The team said both Hurd and Verrett are candidates to be given the return designation. However, there are two other players on injured reserve, receiver Trent Taylor and defensive lineman Kentavius Street, who are also eligible to return, though only two players can return off injured reserve each season.
The team said Hurd is dealing with a “stress reaction” in his back. Shanahan initially said it was back stiffness before calling it “a fracture in his back, a hairline deal” on Sept. 23. Hurd joins Taylor on injured reserve after Taylor suffered a setback in his return from foot surgery to repair a Jones fracture in early August. Taylor is expected to return when he’s first eligible Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 11.
“Anytime you have a stress fracture in your back, that was the hard thing with it,” Shanahan said. “There are guys that have come back in three weeks and there are guys who it takes 10 weeks and there’s just as good of a chance to come back in three weeks as there is 10 weeks.
The injuries come after the 49ers lost starters in their first three games of the season prior to the recent bye week. Running back Tevin Coleman sustained a high ankle sprain in the season opener but could be back on Monday. Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley fractured his fibula in the second half of the Week 2 victory in Cincinnati but could return in late October or early November.
Witherspoon went down with his foot injury during the second half of the recent win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was replaced by Verrett, who was flagged for a long pass interference penalty before getting burned for a 39-yard touchdown by Steelers rookie receiver Diontae Johnson.
Report: 49ers bring back Jordan Matthews
The NFL Network reported Thursday San Francisco is going to re-sign Matthews after he failed to make the team during final cuts before Week 1. Matthews, 27, was passed over as the team kept seven receivers, including Richie James Jr. and Kendrick Bourne.
Matthews would likely return to play in the slot in place of Hurd and Taylor as they work their way back from injuries. He was a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 and averaged 891 and over six touchdowns during his first three seasons.
Matthews earned the respect of his teammates throughout the 49ers’ offseason program with his study habits and commitment to dieting and conditioning.
“Jordan was one of the first guys that came up to me in the offseason and kind of wanted to learn the intricacies of the offense and everything and how it’s all tied together,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “Just his work ethic is incredible. There’s not many guys that I’ve have been around like that, so it’s great to have a guy like that back.”
Matthews signed a modest one-year deal with San Francisco in the offseason after stints with the Patriots, Bills and a return stop with the Eagles.
49ers re-sign Dontae Johnson
The 49ers on Thursday brought back Johnson to offer depth at cornerback following Verrett’s injury. Johnson, 27, spent his second stint with San Francisco during training camp but didn’t make the team through final cuts.
Johnson could be active in Monday night’s game while San Francisco is expected to replace Witherspoon with Emmanuel Moseley, who would be making his first career start.
▪ The team this week signed offensive lineman Will Holden to the practice squad. He takes the place vacated by safety Marcell Harris, who was promoted to the active roster earlier in the week. The team released fellow safety Antone Exum Jr. to clear room for Harris.