The first two weeks of training camp haven’t been easy on the San Francisco 49ers. The defending NFC champions have had several key players suffer injuries, including Dee Ford, Jalen Hurd, Ben Garland, and rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who joined fellow pass-catchers Deebo Samuel and Richie James Jr. on the sideline.
San Francisco got some good news about Aiyuk. Niners’ head coach Kyle Shanahan said the rookie is week-to-week while his hamstring recovers, and that he’s expected to be ready to go for the Week 1 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
Aiyuk was finding his stride before getting hurt. He showed off his speed and hands while developing a rapport with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during last week’s practices. The challenges of this unprecedented offseason have been tough on NFL rookies, who haven’t had the opportunity to get as much on-field time with coaches, and teammates due to the pandemic.
Still, Shanahan is confident the setback won’t hurt Aiyuk’s development due to the time work the 22-year-old put in during the offseason.
“You can’t sit there and dwell on it. You try to look at, was anything done wrong or anything like that? Not at all. Aiyuk’s been in great shape. He’s working his tail off out there and sometimes that stuff just happens while you’re going through a training camp. That has been the challenge, just this training camp not being quite as long. So, it doesn’t leave much room for error with that type of stuff, but it happened to Bosa last year. When you’ve got guys who come in prepared, that gives them a chance when they don’t get all these reps. If Aiyuk didn’t come in the way that he did come in, he’d be screwed now with an injury. That’s what’s been cool about him that he’s given himself a chance to overcome something like this. I think we got pretty good news with it because we thought at first it was a bad pull and it ended up just being a mild one. So, hopefully it’s only one, two weeks. When it is, we’ll give him some time to come back. But, he can’t check out while he’s rehabbing, which with how he’s been, I’m not worried about that. He’s going to stay into it mentally and stuff, but no matter how mentally you stay into it, when you hear in the huddle and you go out there full speed, it’s a little bit harder. Hopefully, he’ll get some time, probably about 10 days, hopefully, before we get back to Arizona and we’ll be able to catch him up then.”
Aiyuk will be a big part of the 49ers’ offense, especially early in the season if Samuel misses a few weeks while recovering from a Jones fracture. The Arizona State product is a YAC monster, who should get plenty of opportunities in Shanahan’s unique system that puts a premium on speed.
Shanahan also touched on why he wanted the team re-watch some of the mistakes from last season’s Super Bowl loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. Lineman Trent Williams said he could, “feel the room cringing,” whenever a clip from that particular game was shown. The head coach explained why he wanted to re-live some of those moments, and how the squad can learn from the mistakes that were made.
“Yeah, it wasn’t just the Super Bowl game. It was more, I was just showing them stuff on “got to have it” situations where if you don’t make this play on offense or defense, the game’s over. We try to resemble that in practice and put it through where we had ten plays that were kind of like that. I just brought it up after because we didn’t do that great in those periods. So, I brought up clips throughout the year on what “got to have it” situations are. It wasn’t just the Super Bowl. Went throughout the whole year and showed why you win games and why you lose games. A number of clips came up in the Super Bowl and those are a lot harder to watch because everyone knows how that ended, but there are some good ones and bad ones on both ways that went throughout the year. We were pretty good in those situations throughout the year, but in the three games that we lost, you can see we didn’t make those plays.”
Shanahan seems confident in what the 49ers have in Aiyuk. If Samuel and Aiyuk are able to get back onto the field before Week 1, it will give San Francisco’s passing game a massive boost, considering the lack of experience beyond Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor.