49ers on Monday:  Injury situation looks pretty clean heading in to Atlanta game

49ers on Monday: Injury situation looks pretty clean heading in to Atlanta game

Rare is the Monday when 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan delivers a brief and fairly clean injury report.

But that’s what happened the day after a grueling 26-23 overtime win road win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 49ers got back to the facility after 1 a.m., and by the time Shanahan spoke to the media in his weekly conference call, there wasn’t a lot of medical news, which hasn’t happened often over the past two seasons.

Ambry Thomas, a rookie cornerback who struggled (although he got a positive review from Shanahan), went into the concussion protocol.

Weakside linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair left after 42 snaps with an elbow sprain Shanahan said was “day to day.”

Finally, middle linebacker Fred Warner, who rolled his ankle on a third-down play but never missed a snap, has a low ankle sprain and is expected to play against the Falcons.

George Kittle, the 49ers tight end who caught 13 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown and appeared to be hobbling in overtime, didn’t even merit a mention. Neither did Deebo Samuel, who was questionable going into the game but looked as explosive as ever with eight rushes for 37 yards (including a 27-yard TD run) and one reception for 22 yards.

Should the 49ers get running back Elijah Mitchell back (concussion, knee) after sitting out against Cincinnati and Dontae Johnson returns after missing the game due to the death of his mother, they could enter a stretch of two games in 10 days (the 49ers face Tennessee on the road on Thursday, Dec. 23) being at something approximating full strength.

Shanahan was less optimistic about two players whose health has been a season-long issue — linebacker Dre Greenlaw and defensive end Dee Ford.

Greenlaw has played only in Weeks 1 and 12, the second time aggravating a core injury against Minnesota.

“He has a chance but it’s been bothering him all year,” Shanahan said. “I’m not counting on him but I hope it does happen.”

As for Ford, who has been battling a back injury and has played in six games, the 49ers either have to activate him on Wednesday or he’s done for the year.

“That’s something I never can predict, but I’ll be surprised if he’s back,” Shanahan said. “I think we’ll have to just continue playing without him.”

Shanahan not doubting Thomas

Thomas, the third-round pick from Michigan who has come along slowly, was thrown into the fire against the Bengals and appeared to come out singed. Ja’Marr Chase got him for a pair of touchdowns, and two illegal-hands-to-the-face penalties erased a Jimmie Ward interception and a Nick Bosa sack.

A disaster? Not exactly, according to Shanahan.

“I think it’s the best I’ve seen him look, the way he was throwing his body around,” Shanahan said. “I think he was really good in his jams at the line of scrimmage . .  it was his first game, a lot to learn from it, but I was very encouraged by it.”

The two hands to the face calls were simple technique errors.

“He;’s just got to lower his target area because he was jamming receivers as well as I think we’ve had,” Shanahan said. “But I liked his intent on the plays.”

As for getting beat in coverage, Shanahan said, “He was putting himself out there against a real good receiver who got him a couple of times. I thought there were a number of times he covered real well that you don’t see the ball thrown there.”

As for Thomas’ concussion, it came late in the game. The 49ers have had players over the last two weeks miss the following game after a concussion — Marcell Harris and Mitchell.”

Wishnowsky knucklers?

Two muffed punts by Cincinnati’s Darius Phillips looked as if they caught the return specialist by surprise, which comes as no surprise to Shanahan or assistant coach Wes Welker.

“I talked to Wes who did it his whole career (with New England and Denver) and is one of the most trusted guys and he tells me Mitch’s ball is the hardest he’s ever had to catch,” Shanahan said. “The way it can knuckle, the way it can move. Especially when you get in some elements where there’s wind and it’s night.”

The ensuing recoveries by River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield led to 10 points for the 49ers.

Aiyuk’s big save

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught the 12-yard touchdown pass that won the game in overtime and finished with six receptions for 62 yards, but just as important in Shanahan’s eyes was a 4-yard gain on the first play of the second quarter which helped salvage a drive that ended in Samuel’s 27-yard touchddown run.

On first-and-10 from the 49ers’ 46-yard line, Aiyuk too the ball on a reverse, then looked downfield to pass on a trick play. No one was open, but Aiyuk managed to work his way downfield for four yards to the 50 and a manageable second-and-6 instead of something far worse.

“Trick plays, they’re hit or miss. They’re tough to call because when they don’t hit, a lot of times it’s disasterous,” Shanahan said. “They were able to defend it and well and Aiyuk still got four yards out of it. I thought it was a big-time play by him. He was very aware of it. With those plays, you earn a lot more trust.”

Aiyuk has been earning trust weekly after a slow start in training camp when he found himself getting fairly limited snaps.

“He’s been getting better every time he plays, whether it’s practice or games,” Shanahan said. “Very smart guy. I think he’s grown up a lot the last two months.”

ETCETERA

— Shanahan wore a No. 88 pin in memory of Demaryious Thomas, the former Denver wide receiver who passed away suddenly Friday age 33. Shanahan said he didn’t know Welker but had friends and family who knew him and had heard nothing but great things about him. Welker, the 49ers wide receivers coach, was a teammate of Thomas in Denver. He was wearing a pin, and Shanahan inquired about wearing one himself.

“I knew Wes had a personal relationship with him, I asked him if he thought that something his family would want to see, and he said yes, and I was very happy to do it,” Shanahan said. “A horrible thing to happen.”

— Right tackle Tom Compton, who has replaced the injured Mike McGlinchey in the starting lineup, threw a key block on Samuel’s 27-yard run as well as another one on an earlier 9-yard run by Jeff Wilson. Shanahan coached Compton as a coordinator at Washington and Atlanta.

“He knows what we’re asking from him, he knows what we want him to do and he’s been working at it for a while,” Shanahan said. “I do feel he’s playing as good as he has in his career.”

— Wilson led the 49ers with 56 yards on 13 carries and Shanahan was enthused about how hard he was running. Wilson missed half the season after meniscus surgery and has had mini-setbacks in some practice sessions since he returned.

“He looked healthier and it looked like he was getting his legs back under him too,” Shanahan said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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