It is looking less likely the 49ers will have top wide receiver Deebo Samuel available for the team’s season opener on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
But the 49ers appeared to get some good news at the beginning of practice on Thursday, as rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk was on the field for the first time since sustaining a hamstring strain on Aug. 23.
Samuel was not on the practice field when the 49ers began practice, according to multiple reports. Neither Samuel nor Aiyuk practiced on Wednesday.
Reporters are allowed to watch the first period of practice, which consists of stretch and warmup drills. The 49ers’ practice Thursday is scheduled to end at approximately 2 p.m., at which point the club must submit an official participation report to the NFL.
Samuel and Aiyuk are expected, along with Kendrick Bourne, to be among the 49ers’ top three wide receivers this season.
Samuel has not practiced since undergoing surgery in June to repair a fracture in his foot. After getting off to a strong start at camp, Aiyuk was sidelined for nearly three weeks with a hamstring injury.
The 49ers could turn to Dante Pettis to have a big role in Sunday’s season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
“With them being day-to-day, we're ready for any situation with the receivers,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday of Samuel and Aiyuk. “Whether Dante is going to play a lot, play a little, he's kind of in the same boat with about four other guys.”
After a promising end to his rookie season in 2018, Pettis was mostly a non-factor last season after reporting to training camp in worse shape than he left the previous offseason program. He caught just 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He was inactive for the Super Bowl.
“Dante is so much more prepared right now for the season than he was last year at this time,” Shanahan said. “Just the work he put in when he was away.
“Whether he gets this opportunity this week or some other time throughout the year, he's put himself in a position to have a chance to be successful.”
The 49ers have a lot of other potential targets in the passing game for Jimmy Garoppolo to utilize this season, and they could spread the ball around a lot in the opener to keep the Cardinals' defense off-balance.
Samuel, Aiyuk, Bourne, Pettis and slot receivers Trent Taylor and Richie James are the receivers on the 49ers’ 53-man roster.
The 49ers could also call up Kevin White and/or River Cracraft from the practice squad to be available for Sunday’s game.