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Baalke expects DeAndre Smelter to play in preseason, ‘not even thinking IR at this point’

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The San Francisco 49ers are hoping to get wide receiver DeAndre Smelter on the field before the end of the preseason. There have been rumblings for the team to consider IR, but Trent Baalke does not think it is a factor at this point.

Earlier this week, San Francisco 49ers head coach described DeAndre Smelter as dealing with an injury that has him week-to-week. Smelter has been unable to do a lot of practicing in training camp, and it cost him Sunday’s preseason opener. On Wednesday, Trent Baalke told the beat writers that Smelter is dealing with a soft-tissue injury in his lower body. Baalke told them he expects Smelter will play before the end of the preseason, and they are “not even thinking IR at this point.”

There has been some speculation that the team might place Smelter on injured reserve to clear a roster space. One bit of flexibility this season is a player does not have to be deemed “designated to return” to be brought back from IR. However, each team is only allowed to return one such player, so there are still limitations.

On Monday, wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell was asked about Smelter, and he described him as a raw receiver who has all the tools a coach would want, but just is not ready to know how to use them. The injuries slow the process down for a guy who needs all the reps he can get. He played in a triple option offense, and he has a lot of development in front of him. Getting Smelter back on the field this preseason is critical if he is going to improve.