The San Francisco 49ers enter the final week of the regular season with some good news. And some bad.
The good – the team could see the return of several key players who have missed multiple weeks due to injury. Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is among the players who is vying for a Week 18 return after missing the last four games with a high-ankle sprain. His return appears timely as the 49ers are set to face a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense that features Cooper Kupp, who leads the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, along with Odell Beckham Jr., who has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games.
Prior to his Week 13 departure, Moseley had notched 10 passes defended, while allowing a completion percentage of just 56 percent. He had also not allowed a touchdown catch in 51 targets, according to Pro Football Focus. Rookie corner Ambry Thomas has seen starting snaps in his absence and has made improvements over the last four starts, including earning a 75.9 coverage grade on Sunday against the Houston Texans after being targeted twice and allowing one catch for zero yards.
Additionally, Dre Greenlaw could make his return to the lineup after missing all but two games this season. The linebacker sustained a groin injury in the season opener that led him to miss 10 weeks. He re-injured his surgically-repaired groin in his first return to the field in Week 12 and has missed the each game since. Greenlaw is expected to return to practice on Wednesday as the team will assess his availability for Week 18.
Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr., safety Tavon Wilson and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst are also expected to return to practice this week. Sanu Sr. was placed on Injured Reserve after suffering a knee sprain in the Week 9 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson was placed on IR in the same week after suffering a foot injury.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed in Week 7 that Hurst was dealing with a "pretty bad" calf injury and was expected to miss four to eight weeks.
All three have a chance to suit up against the Rams should they have an encouraging week of practice.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) also adds himself to the list of 49ers who could return to practice on Wednesday. The head coach alluded to working on a gameplan for both Garoppolo and Trey Lance this week with the hopes the veteran is clear to return.
"I think pain is a huge deal, but I think Jimmy will be alright with that when the time comes to have to go through it," Shanahan said. "I think the more days you can take off, the more you give it a chance to stay healthy and kind of relatch and not to make it worse. And that's the fine line of knowing how far you can get with it. And at the same time, also trying to give it just a little extra time to get a little stickier."
The 49ers will also be monitoring Trent Williams, who briefly left Sunday's win over the Texans with an elbow injury. Per Shanahan, the injury isn't as extreme as what finished the left tackle's 2020 campaign on IR, however, the team plans to "manage him" throughout the week.
As for the bad, four members of the 49ers were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, including three key defensive players. Safety Jimmie Ward, nickel corner K'Waun Williams and cornerback Dontae Johnson all landed on the list on Monday. Additionally, running back Raheem Mostert, who is on IR with a knee injury, also adds to the list.
The 49ers were relatively fortunate throughout the entirety of the 2021 campaign, with just one player landing on the list prior to this week. With the updated league protocols, their statuses for Sunday's game will be worth monitoring throughout the week.