49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has been asked multiple times since the team has clinched the division and a playoff berth how he’d ensure everybody stays healthy during the final two games while still chasing the #2 seed.
Here’s Shanahan’s answer from Wednesday:
“We’re trying to make sure everyone stays healthy for the playoffs now in terms of guys who aren’t healthy. And then we feel it’s a risk. We can be very smart with that. It’s not worth risking that when you know you’re in the playoffs, but the goal isn’t just being healthy in the playoffs, it’s we think we’re a really good team and we want to make sure that continues and we also think there’s room to get better and if anything happens, we want to make sure we’re better, not worse.
It’s really hard just to put people on hold in football and expect you’ll be the same team or definitely expect you’ll be better, so every week we’re just trying to keep, whether it’s practice field, whether it’s the game, there are opportunities to get better, and that’s how we look at it and it’s great that there’s an opportunity to get the two seed. We’ll see what it is after this week.
Hopefully, we can win, but then we’ll see what the situation is the next week, but we’re not going to risk guys who we think are putting a lot of risk to how their bodies are at now, but I also think it’s a big risk to have guys who have been going and playing football at a high level just to tell them don’t play for three weeks and then make sure you play at that high level for three and a half hours when everything’s on the line, so we’re just balancing that out and we’ll see how it continues.”
Therein lies the 49ers' dilemma during these next two weeks. When you read Shanahan’s answer, names such as Christian McCaffrey, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Arik Armstead, and George Kittle come to mind. So, essentially, their best players.
You don’t just “shut it off” in football and expect to “turn it back on” because you step onto a field. The players mentioned above have gotten themselves into quite the groove this season, so it’s understandable why Shanahan is hesitant to sit his stars.
Additionally, the roster sizes don’t allow organizations to field a team full of backups. That’s another point Shanahan addressed:
“That’s also what’s comical about that question. Not to insult anybody at all, but it’s like we still need 48 guys, so who are we going to rest? And then I got 53 guys who look at me like, who do you care about the most, who are you resting? And it isn’t that way. You have to play the game, we have to suit up our guys and hope to get through it as healthy as possible.”
By the sounds of his answers, the worry about potential injuries is coming from the media and fans and not so much the team.