The San Francisco 49ers opened the practice windows for center Daniel Kilgore and wide receiver DeAndre Smelter earlier this week. Both had been taking part in meetings, but had been unable to get involved in physical practices. Kilgore seemingly stands a decent chance of returning to the 53-man roster in the next couple weeks, while Smelter seems more likely to spend the season as a "medical redshirt" before joining the roster next season.
Smelter met with the media earlier this week to discuss his first week of practice. He said his knee feels fine, but it's more about getting his whole body in football shape again. He said it would likely take a couple weeks to be exactly where he wanted in that regard.
Naturally, he was asked if he would get into game action this season. He said it was up to the coaching staff, and he would only focus on things he could control. That is generally what you would expect to hear from a player, particularly a rookie. That being said, I'm pretty sure he is under the impression he will not be joining the 53-man roster this season given his rookie status and the team's overall issues.
The downside to the red shirt idea is that a player misses a full year of on-field action. You never quite know how a player will bounce back from that kind of extensive absence. And it is an important thing to consider when analyzing the red shirt strategy. The upside is the 49ers do get essentially an extra year of control because he will be a restricted free agent at the end of his four-year rookie deal, instead of an unrestricted free agent. But that extra time away from football is the tricky thing to consider.
Obviously if a player gets back to 100 percent health, that's a big deal, but even still, it does not guarantee a return to his pre-injury form. We can hope for him to be an intriguing replacement for Anquan Boldin, but I would lean toward just assuming nothing, and any return is a bonus. Not exactly the most exciting way to consider it, but I kind of prefer lower expectations with the red shirts at this point.