Deebo Samuel sustained a hamstring strain that is expected to keep the 49ers wide receiver out of action through the end of the regular season.
"I think we'd have to make the playoffs for him to come back," coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday, one day after Samuel sustained the injury in the 49ers' 23-15 loss to Washington.
Samuel was injured after taking a handoff on a jet sweep and gaining 9 yards on the first play of the game.
Samuel appeared in just seven games this season with five starts. His injury issues began in the offseason when he sustained a fractured foot during a player-organized workout in Nashville.
He missed the first three games of the season as he recovered from the fractured foot. Samuel sustained a hamstring injury in Week 7 against New England.
Samuel returned to action in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams, catching 11 passes for 133 yards. But he missed practice time the past two weeks with soreness, including a bruised foot.
"Every time Deebo's come back, he's gotten reinjured," Shanahan said. "That's because he hasn't been in a position to really be in great football shape."
Shanahan said he spoke Monday with Samuel in Arizona, where the team has been staying since Santa Clara County banned the team from practicing and playing due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"He was so down that he might end up missing the rest of this year," Shanahan said. "I was like, 'I know it seems like a bad thing, but it's a positive thing if you make sure this hamstring injury is what you learn for the rest of your life why every day in this league matters.' "
Shanahan said Samuel's experience this season can serve as a vital reminder that accomplishing success in the NFL is a year-round commitment to remaining in top physical condition.
He told Samuel, "You have to take care of yourself so you can play for a full year, because that's the only thing that's going to hold a guy back like that."
Samuel caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie. This year, he has 33 receptions for 391 yards and one touchdown.