The San Francisco 49ers have until 3 p.m. PT on Saturday to cut down from 75 players to 53. They cut from 90 to 75 players earlier this week primarily by placing players on various injured lists. These players do not count against the 49ers 53-man roster limit, however, several of them could end up on the field at some point this season. It is safe to say the 53-man roster as of tonight will not be the same 53-man roster two months or more down the road.
Before we get into that, I wanted to open with a few thoughts on recently injured running back LaMichael James. He cannot go on the PUP list, but his injury might impact the 49ers roster decisions on Saturday.
Injury: Left Knee Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain (Grade II). MCL strains are tears to the ligament. Typically, when an injury is labeled as a sprain, it is a lower range of grades. Even within a grade, there can be a significant range. Although James' injury is technically classified as a Grade II tear, it is likely on the lower range of Grade II.
Prediction: Once a player practices with the team, all PUP options are off the table. The 49ers options are to keep him active or put him on the IR. I do not believe the injury is significant to eat up the IR with return designation, so it is likely James will make the 53-man roster. Yet, he will not dress for 3-4 weeks. By week 4, he should be doing well.
The remaining players are on either the Reserve/PUP or Reserve/NFI list. They will be out a minimum of six weeks. Some will return shortly after, some later in the season, and some will not return at all this season. To better understand the PUP/NFI rules, read through my breakdown from earlier this summer.
Injury: Complete tear to Achilles Injury. Three months removed from surgical repair of Achilles tendon. It should be noted Crabtree is past the initial three-month mental hurdle of sedentary life. From everything being reported, including tweets indicating he is able to walk uphill and is expected to jog in a few days, I am very encouraged. I discussed the 49ers two options with Crabtree and still believe the 49ers chose the best option with Reserve/PUP.
Prediction: If all is going as expected with his rehabilitation, we could see Crabtree be activated anywhere from week 11 to week 15. The new rules allow a player to go into week 15 before he must be activated, which gives Crabtree a few more weeks (if needed). Even if his injury drags out past week 15, but the 49ers are able to hold onto their one Reserve/Injured designation for return.
Injury: Tear to both the anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL) in his left knee. Manningham is seven months removed from multiple surgeries to repair the torn ligaments. It was projected Manningham would return in late August. Because he will start the season on the Reserve/PUP, he's ineligible to practice or participate in game action for the first six weeks of the season.
Prediction: Manningham will return to practice and be activated on or about week 8.
Injury: Dislocated knee and multiple complete tears to his anterior cruciate, lateral collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL, LCL, and PCL). Lattimore is about 10 months removed from total knee reconstruction. If it were up to Lattimore, he would be practicing. However, the 49ers medical staff have insisted he take a more patient approach.
Prediction: I think he'll spend entire season on Reserve/NFI, because we have depth at runningback. The 49ers are prepared to sit him out for the year. If he continues to progress quickly, there is a chance he could be reactivated by week 12; however, given the bigger picture, that would be a premature move and would risk further injury. Unless there is some unforeseen injury, I do not see him playing this season.
Injury: Hairline fracture in his right foot. A secondary fracture was discovered at the 2013 NFL Combine. Marquardt underwent surgery to repair his broken foot on April 12. With fractures, rest and traction is the key. If he resumes practice too quickly, larger stress fractures can develop. And, those are harder to heal. It takes time. Re-injury could lead to chronic problems, and the stress fracture might never heal properly.
Prediction: I believe Marquardt will remain on the Reserve/NFI for the entire year. With the depth at his position, he is better off letting his foot completely heal before engaging in drills or any activities that could put stress on his foot.
Injury: Dial has a condition known as turf toe. It is a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe, and it can be extremely painful. Turf toe is relatively common among football players. Dial underwent surgery to relieve his symptoms, which shows he most likely had some form of cartilage damage surrounding the joint. When cartilage damage occurs, bone spurs develop and completely immobilize the movement of the joint. The movement is bone on bone and extremely painful. Once the surgeon removes the bone spurs, it frees up the joint and allows proper range of motion. Even after surgery, turf toe can become a chronic condition.
Prediction: Dial can be activated after week six if his turf toe symptoms have improved. He should definitely see marked improvement by that time, if not earlier. If the 49ers feel they need him at defensive line anytime between weeks 6 and 15, they will activate him.
Injury: Tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Carradine is 8 months removed from knee reconstruction. Having sought out well known physical therapist, Russ Paine, he was as aggressive with his rehabilitation as any athlete I have ever seen. Carradine has stated he was 100% since May, but the 49ers' trainers slowed him down some. He completed individual drills, but is awaiting clearance from the team's medical staff. It is possible, the doctors will want to slow him down some.
Prediction: The 49ers have utilized their option of putting Carradine on the Reserve/NFI list and we could see him activated by week six. Given what we've seen from Carradine thus far, the fact he remains on the NFI surprises me from a medical standpoint; but, not from a roster standpoint. I think he can be activated as early as week 6 or as late as week 15, depending on the needs at defensive line.
Injury: Undisclosed. What do we know about his health? We know he has a history with an Achilles injury. However, Wright was actively practicing with the Bucs earlier this season (before the trade). Unfortunately, the initial trade was voided due to a failed physical. Some speculated he failed due to his problems with the law. However, I doubted the 49ers would back out for that reason alone.
Every team has its own standards for physicals. I suspected the 49ers would likely include a psychological or drug test. Given the nature and extent of Wright's past history with alcohol and narcotics, which have led to some unfortunate transgressions. When Wright was signed, Trent Baalke indicated Wright was "currently tending to a personal matter and he will join the team as soon as possible." As the name indicates, he is suffering from a "non-football injury" so we know it is not anything suffered on the football field.
Prediction: I will let you connect the dots, but Baalke said, "With respect to Eric, there's always a possibility that he becomes a Niner at some point, it's just not now." Given some of his personal history, as he addresses his personal issues, Wright has my full support and I am pulling for the guy.
Status: Injured Reserve
Injury: Okoye suffered a knee injury during the 49ers' preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Jim Harbaugh told reporters Okoye did not sustain an ACL injury and the injury is not season-ending.
Prediction: If Okoye remained on the IR, he would be prohibited from practice and drills. Additionally, his salary (albeit minimal) would count against the cap. The 49ers have the option of bringing him back to the practice squad once he's healthy. If the 49ers reach an injury settlement with Okoye, they could bring him back after the knee injury resolves.
Status: Injured Reserve
Injury: Undisclosed. We know Divens was on the NFI list following the infamous beer bottle buffoonery. He was cleared to practice and play, but somewhere along the line has sustained another injury or has sustained a flare-up in a pre-existing injury.
Prediction: If Divens is able to return relatively quickly, I suspect the 49ers would consider an injury settlement to bring him back to the practice squad at some point.