As the league has begun making the necessary changes to ensure player and fan safety for the 2020 season, so have the San Francisco 49ers, who have undergone countless modifications to their facility, practice schedule and roster structure due to the effects of COVID-19. Some of those changes include general manager John Lynch's charge of assembling a Super Bowl-caliber roster in the middle of a pandemic.
Lynch was a guest on KNBR's Murph & Mac radio show to discuss several updates as the team prepares for training camp, set to kick off this week. Here are five takeaways from the 49ers general manager.
Update on Deebo Samuel
The 49ers got some tough news over the summer as their up-and-coming receiver Deebo Samuel suffered a broken left foot during a private workout session. Samuel was expected to have a breakout season in Year 2, after posting an impressive 484 yards after the catch during the regular season, good for fifth in the league, while ranking third with an average of 8.5 yards after the catch.
According to reports, the wideout is expected to miss 12-16 weeks, with the potential of missing the start of the regular season. While Lynch did not put a timetable on Samuel's return, he did share optimism in the receiver's rehab process and outlook in 2020.
"Unfortunately, (it was) just a freak deal where he went to make a cut and (suffered) a Jones fracture in his foot. That was a blow," Lynch said. "But I think you always try to be optimistic. The good news is it happened when it happened. Might we be without him a little bit at the beginning of the season? Yes. Sometimes these things heal at a different rate. They continue to monitor it. He's doing well. Not going to put an exact timeline on it, but I think it's fair to say that he may miss some games early in the year. But we're going to have him back at some point.
"I know his rehab's going very well. He's working very diligently and still intends on having a really big year for us. And so that's the good news of it."
Samuel reported to the SAP Performance Facility last week along with the quarterbacks, rookies and the team's injured players for COVID testing and was placed on the Active/Non-Football Injury List heading into camp.
Depth at Wide Receiver
With Samuel potentially missing time heading into the regular season, the 49ers will have to lean on their existing talent on the roster to step up in his absence. The 49ers are already without Emmanuel Sanders – a proven, veteran presence – who signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason. Despite missing two of their top wideouts from a season ago, Lynch revealed the 49ers are pleased with their current stable of wideouts, including those returning from 2019 injuries.
The 49ers were without Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd last season, both who were expected to play key roles on offense. After a standout showing during last year's training camp, Taylor suffered a stress fracture in his foot that required the receiver to undergo five corrective procedures through the course of the year. Hurd, who notably made a strong debut in the 49ers preseason opener with a two-touchdown performance, dealt with a stress fracture in his back that caused the pass-catcher to never see the field in 2019. Since, both the wideouts have been cleared for on-field activities heading into training camp. Dante Pettis adds to a group of wideouts the 49ers are eager to bounce back heading into 2020.
"You put those guys in and then when you get Deebo back, we feel really good," Lynch continued. "Might there be a void because Emmanuel Sanders brought that veteran presence? Perhaps. And that's the tough thing about the salary cap, you can't have everybody.
"But we feel really good about our receiver class and some of these guys are clearly going to have to step up. But they're fully capable of it. So, we actually like our depth there. It's just these guys have to show up and we're looking forward to them seizing that opportunity."
Retaining Raheem Mostert
It was announced that the 49ers restructured a deal with running back Raheem Mostert this week. Mostert led the team with 772 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2019 (eight rushing, two receiving). He also added 336 yards on the ground and five touchdowns in the 49ers three postseason matchups, including his franchise-leading 220-yard performance in the NFC Championship Game. According to the general manager, there's no "bad blood" between the parties and the 49ers are looking forward to the running back continuing his success in 2020.
"I was a player once, so you understand it," Lynch said. "We had to understand Raheem's a very important player to our team and the way he came on last year was a huge reason as to why we were in the Super Bowl and our team success. We believe in rewarding our players that play well (and) do well. And that's something that we wanted to do."
Added Competition in the NFC West
The Seattle Seahawks made a blockbuster trade over the weekend to acquire safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets to beef up their defense. An elite, multi-faceted talent, Adams is widely recognized as one of the most effective defenders in the league.
While many speculate teams in the NFC West have made attempts to counter San Francisco's star tight end George Kittle, Lynch expressed his confidence in the 49ers roster to offset the recent changes across the division.
"You've got to win your division first to have success in this league," Lynch said. "You look at some of the deals Arizona has made. You look at now Seattle. I think a lot of people are saying 'Okay, we've got to go get San Francisco.' So that's how these things work. You want to play against the best.
"So, yes, our division's getting better. We understand that. That's why we're working so hard to get better. I'm really proud of our offseason. We added a guy like Trent Williams. We added Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk. We're so excited about where our team's at despite all of the challenges, we're prepared for that. We're built for that."
Speaking of Kittle...
Veterans began their required COVID testing this week, which includes San Francisco's star tight end. Lynch revealed he has been in "really good communication" with Kittle's representatives and he expects the tight end to be on hand for camp.
"George is a pro and he's planning on coming," Lynch said. "And we're going to continue to work to get that done. I'd be disappointed if we didn't. We're working towards that and no updates as of right now, but we're working in earnest because it's very important to us and it's very important to him because he loves being a 49er."