Since the San Francisco 49ers clinched the NFC's No. 1 seed, projections of which players the 49ers will rest in Week 18 versus the Los Angeles Rams have been swirling, and with good reason. San Francisco has secured home field advantage and a first round Bye, removing a lot of the hype we've seen in the past regular season finales between the Rams and 49ers.
On Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan shared definitive news on the availability of his starting quarterback, Brock Purdy. The 49ers sophomore will not be suiting up for the final game of the season in preparation for San Francisco's Divisional Round matchup the weekend of January 20.
"Brock is the only guy I know for sure I don't plan on playing," Shanahan said. "You can rest seven guys if nobody is hurt, if you get two practice squad guys up. We have at least six guys injured right now, so I only know for sure we can rest one. I went with our starting quarterback."
The Rams are taking a similar approach with their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Rams head coach Sean McVay also announced today that Stafford would not play in Week 18. Los Angeles is currently the sixth seed and with no scenario that allows them to elevate their playoff position beyond the NFC's No. 6 spot, the regular season finale is also lower stakes.
With both starting quarterbacks ruled out, it will be Carson Wentz under center for the Rams, and Sam Darnold leading San Francisco's offense. The run of show for practice is expected to largely remain the same, but reps will reflect the change at quarterback for the coming week.
"We're treating this as a normal week, so this is a normal week for this time of year, which means we go half speed on everything," Shanahan said. "Brock will get half reps with the ones, and Sam will get the other. I want our team to treat this as Brock going down on the first play of the game. That's why I want them both repping it
"I want Brock to get some work this week, and that's something I would like us to be ready for if that unfortunately did happen. Thursday when it's all full speed, we'll probably give Sam the majority of them. We'll talk about that after today. Friday, we are back to walkthrough."
The 49ers lengthy injury list, which includes running back Christian McCaffrey (calf), cornerback Ambry Thomas (hand) and defensive lineman Arik Armstead (foot/knee) has been one of the major deciding factors going into determining who will play against the Rams. Roster numbers and the need to keep players in football shape and the team as a whole in a groove also come into play.
"You work hard to get an off week in this league. I think the off week helps a lot of people, especially if you handle it the right way," Shanahan said. "What you don't want is two off weeks. No one gets two Bye weeks, and we earned ours next week... We have to make sure we get something out of this week."
The players echoed those sentiments as they opened the practice week.
"Our mindset is to prepare like a normal week, try and hone in," defensive lineman Nick Bosa said. "We could possibly see them down the road, so whatever advantages we could get from this week is important."
"My approach is to get better, get better individually, as a team, as a defense," linebacker Fred Warner said. "Any time you step in between the white lines that is your opportunity to put something on tape that you can be proud of. We want to make sure we are the best version of ourselves whenever we do play next."