Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who seemed poised for a breakout year in 49ers coach Chip Kelly’s offense, instead will spend the season on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury, the team said Tuesday.
Because he was not part of the team’s 53-man roster, Ellington is ineligible to return this year.
Ellington tore his hamstring while reaching for a punt during Friday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers and seemed to immediately realize the injury was serious. A fourth-round draft pick in 2014, Ellington dealt with an array of smaller injuries – strained hamstrings and sprained ankles – during his first two NFL seasons.
However, his quickness and acceleration stood out in Kelly’s fast-paced attack this offseason. In fact, he caught Kelly’s eye soon after the new coach arrived in Santa Clara.
“When you look at just the short time that I’ve seen just film of him, you’re like, ‘Wow – that kid can do some interesting things,’” Kelly said at the scouting combine in February. “Then it’s our job to figure out how we can use that to help us win games.”
The 49ers traded for Jeremy Kerley on Sunday. Kerley will play the slot position Ellington manned. Like Ellington, Kerley returns punts.
The starting receivers for the season opener appear to be Torrey Smith on the right side, Quinton Patton on the left and DeAndrew White or Kerley in the slot.
The 49ers lost receiver Eric Rogers to a torn ACL in the first week of training camp. Another receiver, DeAndre Smelter, has been dealing with a persistent hamstring injury since the spring. Smelter was back at practice this week but was not at full speed.
Rookie outside linebacker Jason Fanaika also was released to reduce the roster to the 75-man limit.
Hyde’s progress – Running back Carlos Hyde, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter Friday, worked out on a side field Tuesday, signaling he is close to returning to practice.
Under the league’s concussion program, Hyde’s workout falls under the category of non-football activities. If he wakes up Wednesday asymptomatic, he can resume football activities, likely practicing with a blue jersey that identifies him as a player who cannot be hit.
The 49ers will have a walk-through practice Wednesday before Thursday’s preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers. Last season, Hyde was checked for a concussion in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was determined he did not suffer one.
Hyde is unlikely to play Thursday. His top backup, Shaun Draughn, also might not play after aggravating a rib injury Aug. 18 during a scrimmage with the Denver Broncos. Draughn missed the next two preseason games because of the injury.