The San Francisco 49ers had avoided significant veteran injuries through the first week of training camp, but they have some potentially bad news as their first preseason game approaches. Joshua Garnett sat out Saturday’s open practice with a knee injury, and Malcolm Smith left practice with a chest injury.
After practice, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that both are a little more serious. He said Garnett likely needs some stuff cleaned up in his knee, and while he said he did not expect Garnett’s to be long-term a problem, he will miss some time. He said Smith’s could be long-term, but they’ll get more word from an MRI. He closed out that segment of his press conference saying, “We're still holding out they can help us this year.”
This leaves plenty of questions as the 49ers look ahead to the regular season. Zane Beadles replaced Garnett in the lineup. If Garnett is absent into the season, it seems like Beadles and Brandon Fusco would be the starting guards. Ray-Ray Armstrong replaced Smith in the lineup. Reuben Foster remains behind Armstrong on the depth chart, but that could certainly change if Foster continues to impress.
If the injuries are going to carry into the regular season, the 49ers only options are either keep them on the 53-man roster, or place them on injured reserve. Because the injuries happened after training camp began, the PUP list is not available to them. It is worth noting the NFL changed the rule this year so that two players can be returned from the IR list. It used to be just one, but they are experimenting with two this year. The 49ers could also save it for other players, but we’ll see what the next five weeks brings.