SANTA CLARA — The 49ers will be without a few players after their preseason opener, but it's not all bad news on the injury front.
Aaron Banks is expected to miss a few weeks due to a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at Levi's Stadium. The rookie offensive lineman landed hard on his right shoulder with the additional weight of a defender on his body.
The loss of practice time and exhibition games is unfortunate for any rookie, but even more so for a lineman trying to adjust to coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and the speed of the NFL.
Wide receiver Austin Watkins Jr. suffered a broken foot and will miss 6-to-8 weeks. Shanahan was not sure at what point in the game the injury occurred, but believes it could have been early in the 19-16 loss to the Chiefs.
While the head coach respects the rookie’s toughness trying to play through the injury, he would prefer to have known about it earlier. Watkins Jr., who was on the bubble of making the final 53-man roster, could end up redshirting the remainder of the 2021 NFL season.
Shanahan announced Saturday night that team also will be without running back Elijah Mitchell for a few weeks after an MRI revealed an abductor strain. With Jeff Wilson Jr. not due to return for several weeks after suffering a meniscus injury during OTAs, the 49ers would normally look to add another ball carrier, but looming roster cuts will make that a challenge.
“We possibly could look into it but it’s going to get a lot harder now with this new rule of having to go to 85 tomorrow,” Shanahan said Sunday via conference call. “Sounds great if you’re playing with 85 people but you’re not. It depends where we are with other positions.
“We still have four healthy guys who can go, so if we rotate them the right way we can still take care to them. But it gives you no room if one of those guys gets hurt or one of those guys is tight and you want to take care of them."
Shanahan did have more positive news about players he expects to return to practice this week. LB Azeez Al-Shaair, DB K’Waun Williams, LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, TE MyCole Pruitt and DE Samson Ebukam should all be back on the field when practice resumes Monday.