After a string of injuries over the past two seasons, the 49ers have fired head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson, who has held the role since 2006.
Ferguson joins Ray Wright, former head of the strength and conditioning, as personnel that the team has let go since the conclusion of the regular season.
In an official statement obtained from the team, general manager John Lynch thanked the man who was known as “Ferg” by players and staff.
“Following a thorough evaluation, we have determined that now is the right time for a reboot in the structure and protocols of our health and performance areas,” Lynch said in the statement. “On behalf of our entire team, Kyle and I would like to thank Ferg and Ray for the dedication and passion they brought to the 49ers organization.
“We would like to specifically recognize the contributions Ferg has made to the 49ers over the last 13 years, as he was always ready to extend a caring hand to our players, staff and their families. Both he and Ray are tremendous people whom we respect deeply, and we wish them and their families nothing but the best.”
The 49ers saw 17 players spend time on injured reserve in 2018, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon. In 2017, 24 players were placed on IR.
While broken bones and non-contact injuries such as McKinnon and Garoppolo’s ACL tears cannot be blamed on the strength and conditioning staff or the training department, the players’ recovery, or lack thereof, rests solely on their shoulders.
Returning from soft tissue ailments such as shoulder, hamstring and ankle injuries are the training staff's domain. Safety Jaquiski Tartt suffered a shoulder injury early in the season, and running back Matt Breida sustained an ankle injury. Neither player showed a consistent path to recovery as the season progressed.
The recovery of both Garoppolo and McKinnon are vital to the 49ers’ improvement headed into the 2019 season. Lynch addressed the issues in his postseason press conference.
“There's an old adage in football,” Lynch said. “I don't know if it's exclusive to football, but your best ability is availability. We haven't had a lot of guys available, and that's something we're looking into hard. It's been ongoing.
“We'll continue to do that because it's something that needs to change, and I don't think anyone's to blame. We have been studying it. We'll continue to, and try to get a handle on that.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan also had a strong opinion about the health of his players.
“It's been too big of a deal for two years,” Shanahan said. “Injuries are pretty random, but it's also affected us huge. So, that's something that we definitely have to sit back and really look at it from all angles and put a lot of time into. Just try to find a better perspective at it.”
Prior to joining the 49ers, Ferguson served as the manager of athletic team development with BREG, an orthopedic company based out of Vista. He specialized in sports medicine bracing.
Matt Barrows of The Athletic was first to report the firing.