49ers linebacker Elijah Lee prepares for first NFL start

49ers linebacker Elijah Lee prepares for first NFL start

SANTA CLARA – Linebacker Elijah Lee appears set to make his first NFL start, but he does not want to get ahead of himself.

After all, he said, although he is working with the 49ers’ first-team defense in preparation to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday, he is trying to maintain the same business-like approach as knowing he might be called upon at any moment.

“I just know that I have to do my job and prepare,” Lee said. “The coaches say, ‘Be a pro.' So when you’re a pro, you’re always prepared to be the next one up.

“It’s humbling. They put you out there because they trust you, so you got to take that and run with it.”

Reuben Foster is serving the second game of a two-game suspension for violations of the NFL’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct. Veteran Malcolm Smith, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral, has been out of action since sustaining a hamstring injury in the first preseason game. And Brock Coyle, who started alongside Fred Warner in the season opener last week in Minnesota, is out at least eight weeks after sustaining a compression fracture in his back.

“He’s ready to go,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said of Lee. “He’ll be getting some reps and we’ll see how it plays out for Sunday, but we have all the faith in the world in Elijah to go out and perform.”

Lee declared for the 2017 NFL Draft after his junior season at Kansas State with the idea of providing financial support for his mother. He received a middle-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, but was not chosen until the Minnesota Vikings invested a seventh-round pick in him.

He was among the Vikings’ final cuts last year, and the 49ers signed him away from Minnesota’s practice squad. Lee appeared in 14 games, mostly on special teams, as a rookie with the 49ers.

“I’m more of a rangy guy, sideline to sideline,” said Lee, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 229 pounds. “I’m not the biggest guys, but at the same time, I can play inside the box.

“Coming out of college, that was one of my worries, because in the Big 12, you never really have to take on blockers. You’re just running around, sideline to sideline. Now, it doesn’t bother me. I worked on that a lot, being more physical, being able to come downhill and come off blocks. That’s the only way you’re going to make plays in the NFL.”

Similar to their acquisition of Lee last September, the 49ers signed outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. Now, both are in significant roles. Nzeocha became the 49ers’ starting outside linebacker with the decision to trade Eli Harold to the Lions.

“They earned their roles to make this team, and now it looks like they’re going to get their opportunities,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3) at 7 p.m.

“We don’t have to hesitate with those guys. They can play. They’re on this team for a reason, and they make me feel very good about our depth, whether they’re backing guys up or coming into a game or playing on special teams.”

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This Sunday, be sure to watch 49ers Pregame Live at noon and 49ers Postgame Live immediately after the game on NBC Sports Bay Area and live streaming on the NBC Sports app. Greg Papa, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt will have everything you need to know from the 49ers’  home opener.

Ex-49ers first-round pick Joshua Garnett cut by Lions after six months

Ex-49ers first-round pick Joshua Garnett cut by Lions after six months

Josh Garnett's NFL career has hit another snag.

The former 49ers first-round pick was cut by the Detroit Lions over the weekend as the team reduces the roster to 80 players. Garnett signed with Detroit in February after spending the 2019 season out of the NFL.

San Francisco traded up to select Garnett at No. 28 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, as the Stanford product was one of the nation's top offensive lineman. Garnett won the Outland Trophy in his senior season with the Cardinal, given annually to the NCAA's best interior lineman.

[RELATED: McGlinchey hopes 49ers, NFL players hold selves accountable]

Garnett started 11 games as a rookie with the 49ers, but was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury just prior to the start of the 2017 season. Garnett was unable to secure a starting spot in 2018 and played just seven games.

After denying his fifth-year option, the 49ers made Garnett one of the organization's final cuts before the 2019 campaign.

Just 26 years old, it remains to be seen where Garnett might find his next home in the NFL.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Mike McGlinchey hopes NFL players hold themselves accountable

49ers' Mike McGlinchey hopes NFL players hold themselves accountable

The 49ers are scheduled to open the 2020 NFL season on Sept. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals.

They will compete head-to-head against the teams on their 16-game regular-season schedule, but 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey also is mindful that all players – even those on different teams – are on the same side in trying to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Typically, almost anything goes in the midst of a pileup at the line of scrimmage, where the same defensive linemen and offensive linemen might be waging one-on-one battles in close quarters for more than 60 snaps a game.

This season, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more might be at stake on game days than just the outcome of a football game.

“You really hope guys are really pros about everything that’s going on this season because it’s not just your teammates and your teammates’ families,” McGlinchey said Monday in a video call with Bay Area reporters. “Once you start playing games, you’re affecting the entire league at that point.

“Hopefully, everybody can have the discipline and control and the accountability to one another that we can make this thing move as smoothly as possible, especially in the trenches when we are up close and personal.”

[RELATEDHow Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Williams feel about fan-less games]

The hopes of the NFL being able to carry out an entire season will be contingent on teams reducing the spread of the virus. Oakley has developed a clear plastic face shield designed to block the direct path of droplets while allowing for airflow and soundwaves for communication.

McGlinchey said he will try it out at some point in training camp once helmets are allowed during practices, but he will not switch to the new protective device if he believes it hinders his ability to breathe.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]