SANTA CLARA -- Running back Elijah Mitchell entered the NFL’s concussion protocol the morning after he sustained a big hit in the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
The hit in question looked borderline, at best, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan disputed the suggestion that the play was dirty.
“‘Dirty,' to me, usually (means) that someone had intent to hurt someone on it,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “That’s why I don’t call it that way.”
Seattle linebacker Benson Mayowa was holding onto Mitchell’s lower body, and defensive end Darrell Taylor came around and threw his right forearm Mitchell’s head area.
Mitchell appeared to be knocked out as he was stopped for no gain on a third-and-1 play. He lost control of the ball, but a replay review determined he was already down when the ball came loose.
“It’s third-and-1, and every inch matters,” Shanahan said. “Guys were going hard, and the guy came around from the side and Elijah was in a vulnerable position. The guy hit him on a tough spot.
“That’s why I wouldn’t say it’s dirty on the guy because I don’t think he’s trying to do that (cause injury). He’s just trying to do everything he can to stop the guy. And, yeah, you wish that stuff could get seen and wish it could get called. I also know how fast it is to see things in the heat of battle, too, for everybody.”
Shanahan said he believes the NFL has made significant progress over the years with the protocols put into place to diagnose head injuries. But the system is not foolproof, Shanahan said.
“That’s why they go through three doctors to get back,” Shanahan said.
Mitchell returned to the game for the 49ers’ next offensive possession.
When Mitchell reported a headache upon returning to the team’s headquarters on Monday morning, he was immediately placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Mitchell also underwent an MRI examination on his knee. He is experiencing irritation with his knee but the MRI did not show any structural damage, Shanahan said.
Mitchell leads the 49ers with 759 yards and five touchdowns on 165 rushing attempts for a 4.6-yard average.
Three of the four running backs on the 49ers’ 53-man roster did not practice Wednesday, as Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee) and Trenton Cannon (concussion) were also held out.
JaMycal Hasty is the 49ers’ only healthy running back. The team signed veteran Brian Hill to the practice squad Wednesday, and he could be an option to be elevated if he is needed for the team’s Week 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.