SANTA CLARA, California – The already beaten pass-catching corps of the San Francisco 49ers added more uncertainty on Sunday when George Kittle suffered a sprained left knee during a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
That injury could put Kittle’s status in the air for week 2 against the New York Jets, depending on how this week goes, coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.
“We’ll see him come in on Wednesday,” Shanahan said. “He was in a bit of pain today, but we’ll see how he is on Wednesday to see if he can practice or go this week. We know there will be a question.”
Kittle came hoping towards the end of the first half on a hit by Cardinal’s safety Budda Baker. Kittle was able to walk to the sidelines, where he was assessed by medical personnel before going to the locker room early.
But Kittle returned after halftime and appeared to get through the game well, though he had no catches and was not targeted in the last two quarters after posting four catches for 44 yards on five goals in the first half.
After Sunday’s loss 24-20 to the Cardinals, Kittle was his usual optimistic self.
“I feel great,” said Kittle. ‘Fantastic. No problem at all.’
Last season, Kittle suffered what Shanahan called a “popped capsule” in his left knee during a week 9 win in Arizona, during which he also returned and closed the game. He missed the next two games, although it is worth noting that he was also dealing with an ankle injury that was considered the most troubling of the two conditions at the time.
Keeping Kittle, 26, in the lineup this week could be even more important to the Niners than usual. That’s because they continue to deal with a bout of wide receiver injury problems.
San Francisco put receiver Deebo Samuel (Jones fractured in his left foot) on injured reserve on Saturday. Shanahan acknowledged on Monday that Samuel, whose team had hoped to be ready for week 1, suffered a setback during a recent workout.
“We didn’t think it was a setback because he was really in pain after a day of running,” said Shanahan. But the pain never got better. It just got worse and worse after a specific day, and usually after a day we thought it was painful, that it was just because he was working hard on it, but then that got worse every day and no better, it was a bit of a setback, so that’s why we put it on IR. “
Shanahan said hopes remain that Samuel will be able to return for the October 4 game against the Philadelphia Eagles and that the setback was not severe enough to extend that timetable at this point.
Additionally, Richie James Jr. a hamstring injury on Sunday. Like Kittle, James will have to be kept an eye on as the week goes on.
After James’ departure on Sunday, the Niners had just three healthy wideouts – Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor – on the 53-man roster. That group struggled to produce, accumulating four catches for 41 yards on 11 targets.
If all goes well this week, some reinforcements may be on the way. Shanahan said on Monday that he would be “surprised” if first-round Brandon Aiyuk can’t play this weekend as he struggles back from a hamstring injury.
And, depending on James’ status, the 49ers could turn to Mohamed Sanu, who played for Shanahan with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 and is a free agent. The Niners still have an open roster spot after putting Samuel in the injured reserve, so adding Sanu would be relatively painless from a roster standpoint.
“We’ll see how these injuries go, but I love Sanu,” Shanahan said. “He’s a great player. So it’s always possible that he’s out there. However, we’ll look at everything we have. We need to know our numbers that will go up this week, and we don’t. That’s not settled yet. But “I’m not ruling that out at all. He’s available and he’s definitely a man that I really respect and I think everyone in this league respects. We’ll see how it goes this week.”
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