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Kyle Shanahan explains why the 49ers will play most of their starters against the Rams

Shanahan was consistent about not wanting two weeks off for the players and hoping to get something out of Week 18

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Commanders Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Some teams in the NFL intend to sit the majority of their starters in Week 18. If you look at the Los Angeles Rams injury report from Wednesday, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Kyren Williams, and that Aaron Donald guy are all unlikely to play on Sunday.

We know that the San Francisco 49ers will be without their quarterback Brock Purdy, but head coach Kyle Shanahan explained why Purdy is the only starter he will make unavailable:

“One, you only can rest seven guys if nobody’s hurt if you get two practice squad guys up. We have at least six guys injured right now. I only know for sure we can rest one, and so I went with our starting quarterback.”

It seems like an easy decision to make when you think about it in those terms.

Starting left guard Aaron Banks, who did not play in the previous two weeks, was a full participant in practice on Wednesday for the 49ers. His return is important as Jon Feliciano missed practice with a back injury.

So were wide receivers Danny Gray and Ray-Ray McCloud. That’s a good sign that the 49ers can get through a game without playing Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk four quarters.

Shanahan understands that he can’t rest everybody, though, with the Niners banged up. He spoke about the process he goes through when he comes to communicating with each player about playing time:

“You explain to everyone that it’s not an option, and you explain to them why so they get that. It’s pretty easy to understand when you’ve got to dress 48 people so you only can pick five, and you have more than five guys injured.

So the guys who are injured are already not playing. So how many other guys do you get to pick? I can pick two up from practice squad, but that’s all. Unless we start cutting a bunch of players there’s no other option. So guys have got to be in uniform. They’ve got to be ready to go.

It’s nice with Brock because he can still be in a uniform and not count because he can be the third quarterback. Which if that happened, we’ll decide whether to put him in a uniform or not so he could go in and hand it off if that happened. But, you’ve just got to explain it to the guys.”

Still, Shanahan wants to make sure his team gets something out of this week:

“Also, you work hard to get an off week in this league. I think an off week helps a lot of people, especially if you handle it the right way and stuff. Just this time of year it allows guys to get a little fresher and stuff, which what you don’t want is two off weeks. No one gets two Bye weeks. We earned ours next week. We just didn’t know we were going to do it already. So, we’ve got to make sure we get something out of this week. We’ve been in this situation before where we earned a Bye week, it was in 2019. But we didn’t know we earned that until about 8:30 at night on the last play of the game versus Seattle. It was the first time it hit us, when the play before that we might’ve been playing that Saturday.

So, we were very thankful we earned it. We needed that rest, and we got it that week. Yes, we’re in that situation, but we already know we’re there. So that’s why guys’ minds got to be right this week. Two Bye weeks isn’t good for anybody and that’s why this isn’t one.

I know all these questions, those are things you first think of. I do because I didn’t expect to know this Sunday night coming back on the plane. But, once you do sit and the reality hits and you think about it, you look at how a 53-man roster works with 48 guys and only allowed two practice squad flexes. You realize, one, it’s impossible, but, two, it’s also not the best thing for the team.”

Even for the best player on the team, Shanahan said it wasn’t a good idea to have two weeks off:

“No, I don’t think it’s good for anybody to take two weeks off, so not at all. You should see how [T] Trent [Williams] was when he came back after a month off or three weeks. It’s not good, but we’ll see how the game goes and everything. His mindset this week’s got to be that he is getting ready to play.”