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Why 49ers might wait to place Malcolm Smith on injured reserve

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The 49ers could leave the door open just the slightest for a return.

The San Francisco 49ers have not formally announced Malcolm Smith is out for the season, but national reports have made it pretty clear that is the case. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle, and the recovery time likely will carry through the season.

The 49ers have not yet placed Smith on injured reserve, and there could be at least one reason for it. Teams can place a player on injured reserve at any point, but doing so now would end his season. The NFL offers two return designations, which allows up to two players on IR to return later in the season. However, to be eligible to return, a player cannot be placed on IR until after final cuts. I don’t have the exact date in front of me, but I believe it is the Tuesday of Week 1. That would be September 5, this season. If you place a player on IR after 1 p.m. on that day, they are eligible to return.

A torn pectoral muscle is a brutal injury, and there is a pretty good chance Smith would not be able to return this season. However, if the team finds itself in contention late in the year, it might make sense to have the option at least available. Antoine Bethea suffered a torn pec in 2015. It happened in late October, and he was fine by the time the offseason workout program began last year. Again, my guess is Smith won’t be back this season, but if the 49ers wait to place him on IR, it at least leaves the door open a crack.