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.”