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Deebo Samuel's Status Uncertain for NFC Championship; 3 Updates from Shanahan

The San Francisco 49ers have earned the right to play in a fourth NFC Championship Game over the last five seasons following a 24-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round. The 49ers will host the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon, and the team enters the week in relatively good health. Because of their Saturday evening clash with Green Bay, San Francisco has an extra day to work with as they gear up for the next phase of their postseason run. That extra time will be key as they look to get the lone player on the injury list, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, in a place to suit up against Detroit. 

Here are the three biggest takeaways from head coach Kyle Shanahan's Monday conference call:

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel avoided any breaks in his shoulder, however, his availability for championship Sunday is still up in the air. 

Samuel played a total of nine snaps against the Packers after being brought down hard on a nine-yard reception in the first quarter. He was first evaluated for a head injury and cleared to return before exiting again with a shoulder injury. Per Shanahan, evaluations yielded some positive news as Samuel avoided any fracture but no determinations about his health have been made beyond that. 

"It wasn't broken, so that was a really good sign," Shanahan said. "It's still hurting too much for us to have any idea on how it's going to heal up this week. We have to be patient, see how he feels on Wednesday and based on his improvement it will give us a better idea whether he has a chance for the game or not."

This is Samuel's second shoulder injury of the season. He sustained a hairline fracture in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns and did not return to game action until Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead suited up on Saturday for the first time since the team's Week 13 game versus the Philadelphia Eagles and exceeded expectations for his return.

Armstead was back in the defensive starting lineup alongside Javon Hargrave after missing five weeks due to foot and knee injuries. Per PFF, the veteran defensive lineman played a total of 47 snaps against the Packers and accounted for five of the 22 pressures generated by San Francisco's pass rush. He also added three tackles to the 49ers defensive efforts.

"I thought Arik did a hell of a job," Shanahan said. "He was able to stay out there a little more than expected. I think the injury that he's had, that he's been trying to get through, I think he handled the game better than expected... I think it was hard for him to be out there for that long and stuff, just getting in football shape and everything. Hopefully, he'll take a step forward in that this week, but I think in terms of how he played, the old injury that he had. I think it was a huge success."

Shanahan shared his initial thoughts on the 49ers opponent for the NFC Championship Game.

The 49ers will face the Lions in what will be the third postseason meeting between these two franchises and just the second clash post NFL merger. San Francisco last saw the Lions in the 2021 regular season, defeating head coach Dan Campbell's squad 41-33 in the season opener. This 2023 Lions team is in the midst of its own historic run after snapping a 32-year stretch with no playoff wins. They entered the postseason as the winners of the NFC North and the No. 3 seed.

"You can see why they're here," Shanahan said. "Their defense runs around, hits, plays with a lot of energy, you've got a number of playmakers over there, and then, their offense is as good as it gets. They've got a great O-line, great quarterback, two great running backs, great tight end and a bunch of good wideouts that play the right way and a hell of a scheme. It's pretty obvious to see why they've been so good this year."

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