49ers' Jerick McKinnon undergoes right knee surgery, focusing on 2020

49ers' Jerick McKinnon undergoes right knee surgery, focusing on 2020

SANTA CLARA – As the 49ers were packing for their trip Friday afternoon to Tampa, Florida, running back Jerick McKinnon moved across the locker room on crutches with a brace on his right knee.

Several teammates approached to hug him and wish him well. McKinnon will miss his second consecutive season since signing with the 49ers on the first day of free agency in 2017.

McKinnon underwent surgery Tuesday on his right knee – the same knee but a different condition that kept him out last year. He sustained a torn ACL and cartilage damage a year ago. McKinnon said it is "reassuring" his ACL and meniscus cartilage are fine. Other unspecified issues plagued him this summer when he twice attempted to return to practice.

“I know what I got to do,” McKinnon said. “These guys have a good plan for me. It’s about staying mentally in it and support my teammates, and doing what I need to do to make sure I’m healthy coming back next year.

“It wasn’t feeling right, and there were some other things that needed to be fixed.”

McKinnon made it clear he wants to be back with the 49ers next season.

“I love this team,” he said. “That’s why I came here. I love the coaching staff, the whole organization, the Yorks, John (Lynch), Kyle (Shanahan), all the coaches. Coach (Bobby) Turner and everyone has been supportive -- behind me, 100 percent, and there’s nothing more you can ask for.”

But in order for McKinnon to return to the 49ers next season, it seems likely the 49ers would want to seek a dramatic reduction from his scheduled $6.5 million base salary for 2020.

“For me, it’s about making sure I’m 100 percent coming back next year,” McKinnon said. “Definitely, (It’s) tough being out two seasons in a row. It’s not what I envisioned for myself when I came here. But that’s my journey, and that’s what I have to deal with. And I got to do what I got to do to make sure I come back 110 percent next season.”

The 49ers open the season Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida expected to share the load at running back. Raheem Mostert also will be available on game days and could be mixed into the action, too. Even without a healthy McKinnon, the 49ers have a lot of speed in their backfield.

When asked what he expects to see from his teammates this season, McKinnon had a simple answer,

“A lot of explosive plays. Nothing less," McKinnon said.

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Breida battled an ankle injury but still managed to rush for 814 yards last season. Coleman had his best season, gaining 800 yards with the Atlanta Falcons. Mostert averaged 7.7 yards on 34 attempts before he fractured his forearm. McKinnon called Kyle Juszczyk the best fullback in the league.

“You saw what Matt did last year, playing with an ankle injury,” McKinnon said. “You know what Tevin can do from Atlanta.

“Like I said before the season, our group is going to be explosive, making a lot of plays, show a lot of speed, and the coaches are going to do a great job of keeping all those guys fresh.”

Kwon Alexander impressed with what he saw from Dre Greenlaw, stepping into his role


Kwon Alexander impressed with what he saw from Dre Greenlaw, stepping into his role

SANTA CLARA – In the locker room following the 49ers’ first loss of the season, veteran cornerback Richard Sherman preached to his teammates about using the 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks as a learning experience.

“Like Sherm said, it’s just what we needed,” 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

The 49ers entered Monday night as the only unbeaten team in the NFL. They come out of the game with an 8-1 record, and a half-game lead over the Seahawks (8-2) in the NFC West.

“In this league, you’re never going undefeated. But at the same time, it’s a wake-up call," Greenlaw said. "It lets you know you can be beat any night. You got to bring your 'A game' every time. I think from here on out, a lot of guys are going to bring forward their best foot and play and execute and finish out the season strong.”

Greenlaw started Monday’s game in place of Kwon Alexander, who is out for the season after undergoing surgery last week to repair a torn pectoral. Greenlaw recorded eight tackles and had an interception of a Russell Wilson pass in overtime.

The play, along with Greenlaw’s 47-yard interception return, put the 49ers’ offense in position to win the game. But the offense stalled after gaining a first down, and rookie fill-in kicker Chase McLaughlin shanked a 47-yard field goal attempt after making a kick of the same distance to force overtime on the final play of regulation.

“I knew Greenlaw was going to step in,” Alexander said. “I had no doubt about him. I saw it on his face when he first walked through the door.

“He’s been a tremendous rookie, doing everything right, working hard. He put a lot of extra film in this week and it all paid off. He got an interception. I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. He’s a great young man.”

Greenlaw said he played with a lot of confidence because of the support he received on the field from middle linebacker Fred Warner, along with the encouragement Alexander gave him on the sideline.

“I made some mistakes, but I made some plays,” Greenlaw said. “I felt confident. I knew Fred was going to play his heart out, and he had my back. Having Kwon out there on the sideline, he brought us confidence. I felt good running around.”

Warner said Greenlaw stepped in and did as well as could be expected in taking over for Alexander.

“He honestly stepped in and did a great job,” Warner said of Greenlaw, a fifth-round pick from Arkansas. “I can’t say anything bad. Kwon is a seasoned vet, but Dre came out and played as such. He was communicating great. He got aligned.”

Warner had an exceptional game, as he recorded 10 tackles, including his first two NFL sacks. He forced a fumble that DeForest Buckner returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

What can the 49ers take from this loss?

“Just learn from our mistakes, look at yourself in the mirror and see what you could’ve done and keep moving,” Warner said.

Why Jimmy Garoppolo sees 49ers' loss to Seahawks as 'reality check'

Why Jimmy Garoppolo sees 49ers' loss to Seahawks as 'reality check'

SANTA CLARA -- After the 49ers' heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was confident the offense didn't need a major overhaul to bounce back in Week 11.

Monday's loss at Levi's Stadium was Garoppolo's second-worst game of the season statistically. He completed just 24 of his 46 attempts for 248 yards, throwing one touchdown, one interception and posting a 66.2 passer rating. 

“I think I could throw the ball better, we could catch it better,” Garoppolo said Monday. “It’s a little bit of everything it’s not one specific thing that sticks out. It’s a bit of a reality check for us. We’ll go back and respond this week.”  

Players will never make injuries an excuse but Garoppolo lacked his top options Monday night. George Kittle, his No. 1 target, was inactive. Emmanuel Sanders, who had quickly become Garoppolo's second favorite pass-catcher, left the game in the first half with a rib injury.  

Coach Kyle Shanahan needed to make personnel adjustments during the game and had mixed results. While Deebo Samuel finished the night as the top receiver, catching eight of his 11 targets for 112 yards, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis each failed to record a catch on three targets. 

“The receivers were battling,” Garoppolo said. “We had some injuries happen and people were being mixed and matched in different spots. But I thought overall those guys played well. We’ve just got to make plays when your number’s called.”

Shanahan credited the offense and his QB for making some good plays, but he said they were largely inconsistent. The 49ers trailed by 11 points headed into the fourth quarter, but Shanahan liked that his QB was not rattled facing his largest deficit of the season. 

“Jimmy doesn’t really change,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy is always the same, so there’s no difference there. I think like the whole offense, I thought he battled. I thought he battled very hard. Hung in the pocket for a while. I thought he made some big plays, but I know he made a number of plays he’d like to have back.”

Garoppolo already is looking forward to the week ahead to reduce the offense's mistakes going forward. The 49ers have a short turnaround, playing the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks Sunday. 

“It’s just about execution at the end of the day,” Garoppolo said. “It’s nothing crazy, just got to go do your job, execute and move on play after play and just do that throughout the entire game. We’ve been good at that, it just, we had a couple hiccups tonight. Just got to correct them and move on.”

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One thing that Garoppolo has no doubt about is that the 49ers will bounce back from their first loss of the season seamlessly. Most of the locker room has lived through two losing seasons under Shanahan, and the QB is confident his teammates will quickly shake off their disappointment.

“You go back and you watch the tape,” Garoppolo said. “You got to be critical on yourself. ‘What could we have done better? What caused this to happen?’ You’ve got to be hard on yourselves. I think we have a good group of guys in there with the right mindset who are going to come into work tomorrow and fight."