After questions following the departure of Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, the wide receiver group has grown into one of the deepest on the 49ers roster. Rookies Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings add to an existing bevy of 49ers pass catchers that includes Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Travis Benjamin, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor and Richie James Jr. among others.
Another name that complicates the log-jammed equation is wide receiver Jalen Hurd. Hurd made an impressive preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, where the former college running back scored a pair of red zone touchdowns that ultimately helped lead the 49ers to an eight-point victory.
The 49ers were hopeful Hurd's 6-foot-5, 227-pound frame would play a significant role in their red zone passing attack given Hurd's size and power. However, his rookie year never made it off the ground after missing the entire season with a stress fracture in his lower back.
General manager John Lynch revealed during February's combine that although Hurd's injury has been "stubborn," he appears to be on track and nearing a better place to be cleared for all activities.
Two months removed, Lynch revealed the former third-round pick has been medically cleared to return to the field. Although promising, Lynch is pumping the brakes on his full endorsement of Hurd's health.
"We are very optimistic. I don't want to be overly optimistic because last year we saw some progress and then we had some setbacks," Lynch said over the weekend. "I'll let that thing continue to take its place."
The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic have forced modifications in offseason workouts around the league, causing many teams to opt for "virtual" alternatives. Typically in April, teams undergo phase one of the nine-week program to reacclimate players ahead of training camp. According to the NFL, the virtual period will consist of three-straight weeks of classroom instruction, workouts and non-football educational programs that use video conferencing. Fortunately for Hurd, in addition to the 49ers virtual program, he's one of the few players who have been able to benefit from approved supervised rehab at the 49ers training facility that hopefully aids in a timely return ahead of the season.
"He's doing really well," Lynch continued. "One of the benefits is that the rehab players have been able to be around the facility. They've been granted permission by the league. We take great precaution with all those things, but Jalen is doing really well. He is cleared. We're ramping him up.
"He's out, he's running. He's doing really well and we're excited by that. Jalen's 14 days that we've seen him were lights out. The problem is, we've only seen him for 14 days. Jalen knows full well that he needs to work his tail off, so that he can get back and be a contributor and try to earn opportunities to be a contributor for our team moving forward. We love his skill set. We love his mindset. Now it's time to put it all to work."