The San Francisco 49ers are busy preparing for their Week 1 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Kyle Shanahan provided a few notable updates about the team during his press conference on Wednesday.
1. Hurting Hamstrings
It doesn't appear that the 49ers will have Jimmie Ward on Sunday. The safety has now missed more than a month with a lingering hamstring strain. Ward was limited in practice on Wednesday, but Shanahan didn't sound confident about his status against the Panthers.
"Once he can string together a few good days in a row is when we'll feel better about putting him in the game," Shanahan said.
If Ward is unable to go, Jaquiski Tartt or Lorenzo Jerome will start in his place at free safety. Jerome started the first two preseason games with Tartt getting the nod in the "dress rehearsal" against the Minnesota Vikings.
"Both those guys will be competing," Shanahan said. "They've got three days to do it. Depends how we use them, what packages. I'll probably have a better answer for you on Sunday."
Shanahan also noted that Kittle tweaked the hamstring that ailed him in the preseason. The tight end was limited on Wednesday as well.
*2. Familiar Foes *
Shanahan knows all about the challenge posed by Carolina's defense. The Panthers ranked second in the NFL with 47 sacks. Carolina also held opponents to just 3.9 yards per carry. It's a unit headlined by superstars Thomas Davis, Luke Keuchly and Kawann Short, to name a few.
The 49ers head coach is accustomed to the group having faced them twice a year for each of the past two seasons as Atlanta's offensive coordinator. Against Carolina, explosive plays are always hard to come by.
"They're just sound in their coverage," Shanahan said. "They don't put too much pressure on the corners. And when you have very smart linebackers who are good in zone, tied with a pass rush and guys who really tee off on the quarterback, you can't wait very long to expose them. If you do wait and hold onto that ball, it's probably going to be a turnover or a sack. It's tough for big plays to show up fast."
3. Behind the Eight Ball.
The 49ers traded for guard Laken Tomlinson ahead of last week's preseason finale. While San Francisco is obviously intrigued by the former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions, he also has plenty of catching up to do.
"He's obviously behind," Shanahan said. "He hasn't played in a system like this in college or in the NFL, but he's got the tools to be successful and we're excited to get to work with him. I know he's got a lot of work ahead of him. I don't want to overwhelm him too much, but we're going to be challenging him every day."
Expect Tomlinson to be a gameday inactive until the coaching staff feels like he's got a strong grasp of the offense and is ready to compete for a starting role. I wouldn't be surprised if he went straight into the starting lineup once that time comes.
4. Mums the Word
Shanahan was extremely coy on who would be starting across the board apart from the obvious names – Joe Staley, NaVorro Bowman, Pierre Garçon, etc.
"For everyone else, we'll find out on Sunday," Shanahan said. "It's the season now, if there's any gray area we'll figure it out on Sunday."
5. 'Oh Captain, My Captain'
The 49ers won't vote on team captains for the time being. Instead, Shanahan will pick them each week.
"I don't plan on doing that until later in the year," Shanahan said. "I'm just going to decide on each captain each week. Later in the year, I plan on having some set ones that finish the year for us."