49ers wide receiver Jalen Hurd, who missed his entire rookie season due to a stress fracture in his back, is increasing his rehabilitation at the team’s practice facility in Santa Clara, general manager John Lynch said.
“He is cleared. We're ramping him up. We are very optimistic,” Lynch said. “I don't want to be overly optimistic because last year we saw some progress and then we had some setbacks.”
Hurd, who switched from running back to wide receiver upon his transfer from Tennessee to Baylor for his final college season, was a third-round draft pick a year ago. Hurd’s versatility was attractive to 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who imagined lining up Hurd at wide receiver, tight end and running back to take advantage of mismatches.
“We love his skill set. We love his mindset,” Lynch said. “Now it's time to put it all to work.”
Hurd appeared in one preseason game and caught two touchdown passes for the 49ers against the Dallas Cowboys. He never stepped on the field through the exhibition season, regular season or playoffs. The 49ers placed Hurd on injured reserve on Oct. 3. The club hoped he would be able to be activated off injured reserve, but he experienced setbacks and never came close to being available to play.
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Hurd did not travel to Miami for the Super Bowl due to concerns about how his back would respond on the cross-country flight.
But Lynch is encouraged that Hurd appears to be rounding back into shape while working with the 49ers’ strength-and-conditioning staff over the past two weeks. Lynch said Hurd has experienced the benfits of working out under the supervision of the team’s staff. The NFL ruled that the rehabilitation of injured players is permissible under the guidelines that have been put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We take great precaution with all those things, but Jalen is doing really well,” Lynch said. “He's doing really well and we're excited by that. Jalen’s 14 days that we've seen him were lights out. The problem is we've only seen him for 14 days. Jalen knows full well that he needs to work his tail off, so that he can get back and be a contributor and try to earn opportunities to be a contributor for our team moving forward.”
The 49ers hope Hurd (6-foot-5) provides the 49ers with a big target for Jimmy Garoppolo. He will be competing for playing time on a depth chart that includes returners Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis and others.
The 49ers added another big receiver in the draft this year, selecting Jauan Jennings (6-3) in the seventh round. Jennings and Hurd were teammate at Tennessee. Earlier, the 49ers picked Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the first round at No. 25 overall.