San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media Wednesday to discuss some injury updates, as well as how soon Mohamed Sanu will be able to suit up.
“Injuries likely for today at practice: we’ve got [WR] Richie James, hamstring strain. [TE George] Kittle, knee sprain. [CB Jason] Verrett, same thing with his hamstring strain and [CB Ahkello] Witherspoon’s in the concussion protocol. As you guys saw, [CB Richard] Sherm was placed on IR. Go ahead.”
Can you explain what happened with Sherman and when you became aware of the injury?
“We were still waiting on it Monday. It happened like the last four plays of the game, I believe. I think Spoon came in when they were kneeling the ball. They ran it a couple of times, then kneeled it out. That’s when Sherm was done, I think it was the series before that. We were still waiting to see how it felt on Monday and later Monday afternoon we found that it was hurting a little more than he expected. Fortunately, we were able to do the IR to return. So, hopefully won’t be too long.”
I heard RB Raheem Mostert say today that you guys figured out a way for him to get back for the birth of his child next week. Just how important was it for you guys to be able to accommodate that and then on the field, how has he grown as the receiver out of the backfield?
“Raheem has grown in every aspect. He gets better and better the more opportunities he gets. He got a real good opportunity on that look Sunday and did what he was capable of and that was a house call. So, it was awesome. Also did a good job in some other areas, too. But, with the birth of his son, I’m happy it works out for everyone. We’ll see how it goes. It hasn’t happened yet, so you never know. But, you’re always worried with the COVID testing and all that, but sounds like we’ll be able to work it out. Get him the testing he needs and get him to Cleveland to see the birth.”
Obviously, you’ve dealt with a lot of injuries throughout your time here. Having them this early in the season, how big of a challenge has that been just in terms of trying to game plan and prep and all the moving pieces that you have right now?
“It’s a challenge, but you always have something like this each year. It’s hitting us pretty hard right now. It’s a little different, too. Having the IR to return really helps. It allows you to manage some stuff differently, but it also hurts bringing guys in and how long it takes to get them into practice. Everyone saw we brought [former New England Patriots WR Mohamed] Sanu in, but he can’t practice with us until Friday, going through the protocols and everything with COVID testing. So, it’s a challenge and some stuff is still up in the air, but it’s not our first time doing this. So, you’ve got to be prepared whatever way it ends up on Sunday.”
Can you just give us any further update on Kittle and then what have you seen out of TE Jordan Reed where you’re sure he’s ready for a bigger role than Sunday’s 10 snaps that he had?
“Yeah, Kittle, he’s battling. We thought it’d be all right, woke up the next day a little sore. He fully expects to be there Sunday like he always does. Just like he always plays through the game when it happens, but we’ll give him the whole week. Always love to get them out there on Friday. We’ll see how that goes. Friday’s just a walkthrough anyways, but Kittle is one guy that if he’s ready to go on Sunday and the doctors say he’s good to go, we have no problem with him going without practicing. And then Jordan, Jordan’s coming along as planned. He got a late start to camp. We put him in very slowly and that was with some of his injuries that he had from the past. We planned to play him like we did there in the game and we’ll see if he gets a little bit more playing time if there’s less tight ends up.”
How much can Mohamed Sanu be involved on Sunday if he can play, if he passes all the protocols? How much can you communicate with him at this point?
“That’s the benefit of being with someone before, that he’s familiar with the offense. He only had one year away from it and did some very similar verbiage and stuff in Atlanta, even after I left. So, he’s familiar with it. It’s good that we got him done so he can at least listen to our meetings. He can’t be here, but he has an idea of the game plan, can see it all. He’ll be able to get there out at practice, which is a half-speed practice anyways. Mo will do his part. He’s a pro. He’ll learn his responsibilities, what he has to do and basically the decision of whether he’ll play or not probably is going to depend with the health of our other receivers and how that goes this week.”
Just as far as Richard’s injury, is that, I guess, technically a calf strain? Is it kind of connected to his past Achilles issues? And if so, is there a concern that could be more than a three-week situation?
“No, I don’t think so. They tell me calf, so I don’t hear about the Achilles. So, I would think that’s good. He doesn’t sound too concerned about it. He just is going to need a couple of weeks, we think. Maybe a little bit more, but hoping it’s only three. That’s why we put him on IR.”
What happened with CB Tim Harris Jr. and then did you get a chance to see Sanu physically at all or did you just sign him given your past relationship?
“First, Tim Harris, he strained his calf in Friday’s practice last week. So, he’s out for a little bit, similar to Sherm. Then no, with Sanu, it was too hard to bring guys in for a workout and stuff. It just takes too many other days. So, that’s what was good with being familiar with Mo, that he could get here, start studying the playbook, allow him in Zoom meetings. So, if need be, if we need the numbers out there, he’ll be ready.”
A couple more on the injuries: are you still optimistic that WR Brandon Aiyuk will be available on Sunday and is OL Ben Garland also on track to return this week?
“Yeah, I think they’re both about in the same boat. They both got into practice last week towards the end of the week. They both at least made us think about playing them on Sunday. We didn’t go with that. Today will be the first day I see both of them going full speed since last Friday. So, I’m optimistic about it. I know they’re going to get out there today and hopefully they make it through and look good.”
You haven’t seen Mohamed for a while. When you look and try to figure out how you’re going to use him, do you just go back to 2016 or do you try to make adjustments for any changes in his mobility or speed or his skills?
“No, Mo right now, our offense is different than it was there. Our personnel is different than what it was there. You never fit someone in the exact same way when it’s a different team, different people, different scheme. You fit him in the best way that he can to help our team. We’ve had some pretty unfortunate luck here with the injuries with receivers. We know we’re going to get a number of them back eventually this year, but no, bringing in Mo and having someone like him available right now is just, we feel very fortunate of it because he can come in and do whatever we ask him to do. He’s very smart. He knows all the positions. The thing about Mo that I enjoy the most is how tough he is, how competitive he is, the game’s not too big for him. If he showed up on Sunday and we needed him, I know he’ll go in there and fight and compete. That’s why it’s good to have a guy like that ready if need be.”
The fact that the next two games are on artificial surface, does that factor into the decision with WR Deebo Samuel and now Richard? Was there some amount of extra caution going into that and could that occur with any other players, maybe, going to those two games?
“Yeah, it never is a hundred percent the reason you do. If they were healthy enough to go, we wouldn’t just not do it because the turf. But, anytime that you have leg injuries, lower half injuries, going on turf doesn’t help. Guys aren’t excited for that. It’s always a little bit harder on them. So, the fact that it was close and stuff like that, it definitely helps you lean towards waiting until you’re not on turf, but that wouldn’t be the only reason. They wouldn’t be going if we were on grass, but the turf definitely makes it more dangerous. So, it made the decision a little bit easier.”
We were on with New York Jets head coach Adam Gase just before you and he confirmed that New York Jets RB Frank Gore is going to start at running back for them. Just your thoughts on Frank’s career, what you’ve witnessed from him over the years, but especially the last couple of years where you have to still consider him a viable threat as a starter.
“I love Frank Gore. I think he’s one of the best running backs to ever play. I think he’s one of the more underrated running backs to ever play. His longevity and his numbers now have finally given him a little bit more attention that is past due. From his rookie year to watching him at Miami. My first year in the league, I think, was 2003 and I remember watching his quality control in Tampa, just coming out of Miami just studying him. I loved him then, I loved him every year. He runs so hard. The guys that run that hard very rarely can play to his age, which just shows how dedicated he is, how much of a football player he is and obviously extremely talented, but he’s a special dude.”
When you guys hit the road next week is the plan to have all the injured guys stay here to rehab and do all that?
“Yeah, they’re all going to stay here. I’m not exactly sure of their itinerary, but I think they’re going to meet us out in West Virginia Sunday night.”
George Kittle actually missed a couple of blocks on Sunday and so did WR Kendrick Bourne. That was such a strength for you guys last year, the receivers and tight ends blocking down field in the run game. Do you think that’s a product of not having a preseason, not having live reps?
“No, I don’t think so. I thought those guys blocked, the two guys you just brought up, I thought they blocked pretty well in that game. By no means were they a hundred percent, so they definitely missed a couple. But, I definitely didn’t think they had a bad blocking game and a couple other things we all could do better, but no, Sunday did not have to do with our rust and not being out there. When you don’t make a few plays in the game and you’re playing a team that has some talent and is playing pretty hard, that’s just what happens. You lose a close one at the end.”