As the season progresses, the San Francisco 49ers are starting to get healthier. On Wednesday, Kyle Shanahan noted the opened practice windows for two key players on the 49ers defense.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw has been out of the mix since San Francisco's season opener against the Detroit Lions. Following his first-career pick-six, Greenlaw was sidelined with a groin injury and underwent a procedure shortly thereafter.
Originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks, Greenlaw made a slower than anticipated return as the 49ers opened his practice window just this week.
Should Greenlaw have a good week of practice following his 10-week absence, the 49ers will have plenty of decisions to make with the linebacker supplanting Azeez Al-Shaair, who has been having a strong outing at WILL in his absence.
"I think Greenlaw has done a hell of a job in his career for us and just getting back into practice for the first time in a while," Shanahan said on Wednesday. "So I do think it will be hard to unseat Azeez right away just because of what Azeez has done. He's played at a high level and it could take Greenlaw a while to have the chance to pass him up again."
Jaquiski Tartt also made his return to the field on Wednesday after being placed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury ahead of Week 7. Like Greenlaw, San Francisco will have decisions to make with rookie Talanoa Hufanga stringing along a series of strong outings since taking over for the veteran safety.
"I like Huff a lot," Shanahan said. "I think he's played well. Tartt doesn't automatically get the starting position. (We're) not sitting here trying to replace Tartt, either. I think Tartt's played at a high level for us for a number of years and can do a bunch of things. But even before he got hurt, we were trying to get Huff in there too because of what Huff's brought to the table. But we'll see how the week goes this week. I've got to see where Tartt's at and I expect both to play if Tartt's healthy."
Hufanga was key in a massive third down stop and tallied a quarterback hit against the Los Angeles Rams, finishing the night earning San Francisco's top grade on defense, per Pro Football Focus. Shanahan was complimentary of what he's seen out of the sixth-round pick since taking over the starting role and hopes his style of play continues to be infectious throughout the defense.
"I like how he doesn't hesitate about anything," Shanahan continued. "I was just saying today in the team meeting that when he makes a play like he did on that 3rd-and-4, when they tried to run that pick route and he met him, it looks like he's not just thinking about that on gameday, it looks like he decided on Wednesday how he's going to play. You can see it in everything he does and there's just no hesitation in his game and that's what I want - to see 11 guys out there not hesitating and flying around."
As for the 49ers offense, running back Elijah Mitchell suffered a finger fracture in San Francisco's Week 10 win over the Rams. Mitchell underwent a procedure on Tuesday and was a non-participant to open the week. However, San Francisco is "hopeful" the running back will be available to go by Sunday's contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"It's not the first time he's played with an injury," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "This guy, he's a battler, knew it from the first play he got in Detroit. I can remember seeing him in the huddle. He was just, it was different. And for him to battle the way he has through injuries, and all the guys are dealing with stuff, but he's done a good job of that stuff. It's impressive."
As for Jacksonville, lead tailback James Robinson did not practice on Wednesday while dealing with a heel and knee injury. Per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Robinson's injury "seems minor and mostly precautionary." His availability will be something to monitor leading into Sunday with Jacksonville's 11th-ranked rushing offense. Former 49ers ball carrier Carlos Hyde is likely the next man up if Robinson is unable to go.
Here's an early look at Wednesday's practice report:
Did Not Practice
Did Not Practice
- RB James Robinson (heel/knee)
- LB Myles Jack (knee)
- LB Dakota Allen (shoulder)
- DE/OLB Jordan Smith (illness)
- P Logan Cooke (knee)
- RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder)