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Samuel goes on IR, will miss 49ers' first three games

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The 49ers on Saturday placed wide receiver Deebo Samuel on injured reserve, which makes him ineligible to play in the first three games of the season.

Anticipating the need for help in key areas for the season opener, the 49ers on Saturday promoted two veterans -- center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Dontae Johnson -- from the practice squad.

It is not out of the question Grasu could start in the 49ers' season opener Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium.

And with the Cardinals' abundant use of multi-receiver formations, Johnson could see significant playing time, too.

Under new NFL rules for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 49ers are not required to make any corresponding roster moves to account for Grasu and Johnson, though Samuel was placed on IR.

Both players can return to the practice squad next week without being subject to waivers. This season, each team is allowed to suit up 48 players, up from 46, for games.

Grasu could be needed to play a big role in the opener with center Ben Garland listed as questionable due to an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice since Aug. 18. Garland took part in only limited work on the practice field this week.

Grasu, 29, played in 18 games with 13 starts for the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens since entering the NFL in 2015. The 49ers signed him on Aug. 20.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey said this week that Grasu immediately fit into the 49ers’ offensive line room upon his arrival.


“Hroniss has been awesome,” McGlinchey said. “He’s been great ever since he’s gotten here. He’s taken our offense in stride. Obviously, as the center, you have to be able to command everything out there. He’s done an unbelievable job.

“Whether it’s him, whether it’s Ben, I don’t think we’re going to skip a beat. Hroniss is a great football player, a really tough fighter, and he’s going to be great for us when his time comes.”

Garland started the final three regular-season games last season and all three postseason games after Weston Richburg sustained a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. Richburg is ineligible for the first six games of the season after remaining on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Johnson, a seven-year NFL veteran, saw action in seven games for the 49ers last season.

In his career, he has appeared in 73 games with 22 starts. Johnson was promoted because backup cornerback Jason Verrett was ruled out for Week 1 with a hamstring injury.

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The 49ers opted not to promote one of the receivers off their practice squad. Samuel (foot) has been ruled out, and rookie Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) is questionable.

With the move to place Samuel on IR, the first game for which he will be eligible is Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi's Stadium. Samuel will miss the two games in New Jersey, against the New York Jets and New York Giants, on an artificial surface.

Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis likely will open the game as the team's top outside receivers with Trent Taylor in the slot. Richie James is the only other receiver on the 49ers' 53-man roster.