San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was on the Murph and Mac Show on KNBR discussing the injuries of Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle and how the Niners are making a change at right guard. Let’s start with the offensive line.
Tom Compton, the original backup right guard, went on the injured reserve after suffering two concussions in a span of three weeks. So Compton isn’t an option at right guard. Rookie fifth-round pick Colton McKivitz, who has filled in and played about as well as you could ask from a Day 3 pick, was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week, which means he’ll miss Sunday’s contest as well.
The 49ers promoted OL Tony Bergstrom on December 9, before Washington. That’s one option, but Bergstrom likely doesn’t know the playbook well enough for live game reps. Dakoda Shepley was with the team toward the end of training camp. The former CFL Rookie of the Year was another candidate. Shanahan decided that neither were ready to play and is rolling with the team’s backup offensive tackle Justin Skule:
“So, we’ve got Skule left, who’s played, and he’s been out at tackle, but he’ll end up getting some guard work this week. That was his only time being there before in a couple practices. But, throwing him in there this week. He’s gotten two practices. He knows what to do. Looked good in practice and feel good to go with him.”
Hroniss Grasu didn’t practice with a knee injury on Thursday. Generally speaking, if you don’t practice on Thursday, Shanahan won’t play you on Sunday. Instead of moving Brunskill back to right guard, Skule gets the start.
Fortunately for the Niners and Skule, Dallas hasn’t generated a lot of pressure this season in general. The three main defensive tackles who play have combined for three sacks, and six QB hits this season. Still, seeing how Skule only has a couple of practices under his belt won’t give fans much confidence at a position that’s been inconsistent at best all season.
Shanahan also provided updates for George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo. Kittle practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday. He’s not going to play Sunday after being out for a month and a half and only practicing for two days, but don’t rule Kittle out of playing for the rest of the season. Here’s what Shanahan said:
“The way he looked this week gives him a chance in these next two weeks. He was fresh and going, and he looks good, but you know it’s all about what the doctors say after he goes. He’s got two days in this week and how he feels over the weekend the soreness and stuff like that. Because that’s all the stuff, you’re trying to debate whether there’s anything lingering and what the safety issues would be putting him back out there.”
The question the 49ers should ask is, what’s the reward for playing Kittle? I’m aware that athletes are wired differently, and Kittle may be at the top of that list, but the risk is obvious, and the reward isn’t.
Shanahan had a different tone when discussing Garoppolo, and it wasn’t as optimistic:
“No new news. I mean, what I said earlier in the week, we were hoping the whole time along to kind of give him and George the same plan, but Jimmy’s injury is a little bit different. There’s a little more risk in it, so we didn’t feel good putting him back in practice this week. And it’s also a little harder for the quarterback to get in there. There’s not as many reps for the other guys.
We’ll see how he feels next week. Maybe we can get him into the practice, but I think his timeline is at least a week behind George’s.”
That doesn’t sound like a coach who believes he’ll see his starting quarterback on the field again this season.