The San Francisco 49ers will have a new starting tight end on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
The team ruled out Garrett Celek (concussion) on Friday afternoon, leaving Blake Bell as the only remaining healthy player at the position on the active roster.
The rookie fourth-round pick had already seen his playing time increase with Garrett Celek (ankle) sidelined on injured reserve, but now his number figures to be called even more. San Francisco could also elevate one of two tight ends from its practice squad – Brian Leonhardt and Jamie Childers.
"We just have to get guys to step up," Bell said on Thursday. "When we had three tight ends, we could do a lot more stuff, but we'll just work with what we got right now."
After McDonald exited last week's game in Chicago, the 49ers used offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore and fullback Bruce Miller as blocking tight ends.
"We like tight end packages and we've always made sure that we've got guys that do that role," Jim Tomsula said. "So we're always up to speed there."
Bell has caught seven passes for 89 yards this season. Four of those receptions and 72 of those yards, however, have come in the last two games.
"Coach (Tony) Sparano has done a great job of getting me ready," Bell said. "And then just learning from guys like Celek and Vance and even Vernon (Davis) when he was here. Just picking up tips and stuff on different plays, so it's helped me a lot."
Of the two practice squad tight ends, Leonhardt is the most experienced. He appeared in 12 games last year for the Oakland Raiders and caught six passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. The 25-year-old, signed by the 49ers on Nov. 16, said he is ready to go versus the Browns if needed.
"It's part of being a practice squad player," Leonhardt said on Friday. "You're not just there for practice, you're there to learn the system and prepare like it's game week for you as well."
Elsewhere on the injury front, linebacker Michael Wilhoite (ankle) and running back Pierre Garçon (foot) were ruled out for Sunday's contest and will not travel with the team to Ohio. Gerald Hodges and Shaun Draughn will fill those roles.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock (foot), linebacker Aaron Lynch (concussion) and wide receiver Torrey Smith (back, toe) are listed as questionable.