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Lynch on McCaffrey: ‘He’s had a high workload here of late. We want him right for the playoffs’

Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel are expected to play

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers are expected to welcome back Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell Sunday against the Cardinals. Both players have practiced in full this week.

General manager John Lynch spoke on KNBR’s Murph & Mac show Friday morning, outlining whether or not we could expect to see each player:

Much like Elijah, Samuel has practiced both days this week. Both days, Wednesday, Thursday, in our work week. He’s looking good out there. We’ve got to finish this week and make sure he responds well, but all indications are Deebo’s in a real good place.

When asked whether Deebo is expected to play, Lynch responded, “yes, I’d say, right now, I expect him to be out there.”

There’s no ramping-up period when Deebo returns from an injury. He missed Week 8 and 9 but played six snaps in Week 10. When Samuel missed two games in 2021, he played at least 50 snaps the following week after he returned from injury.

Mitchell’s playing time isn’t as easy to predict. He played 25 snaps after a bye week when the team had recently acquired Christian McCaffrey, but those snaps dropped into the mid to low teens the following two weeks.

Lynch isn’t worried about rust with Mitchell:

“The thing we’ve seen from Elijah in the past, he’s a natural runner, so he can shake rust off in a hurry. There really is no rust with him. He can go in a game and produce at a high level. We’ve been doing a great job, our rehab folks, of getting him up to speed. His conditioning level is high.

He’s practiced this week. Barring any setbacks, we expect to see him out there. For how many carries and all that? I don’t think we’ve really nailed that down. We’ll have somewhat of a pitch count of how many touches we want to get him.”

Mitchell’s playing time may depend on whether or not McCaffrey is available. Lynch spoke on that topic during his weekly radio segment with KNBR too:

“If he’s not right, we won’t have him out there. He’s had a high workload here of late. We want him right for the playoffs, but first, he’s just got to be right. If he’s healthy, he’ll play, and we’ll see where that goes.”

That does not sound like a general manager that wants to risk one of his star players. The argument can be made that if the 49ers lose to a fourth-string quarterback without their best weapon in hopes of obtaining the #1 seed, they have bigger problems.