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Samuel's illness raises issue of concern for 49ers' Shanahan

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Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is listed as questionable for the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

On Saturday, the club elevated wide receiver Kevin White from the practice squad to be available to play in the Week 5 game.

Here’s what else we know: Wide receiver Richie James will not play; Samuel can play, but the 49ers are not saying whether he will.

James remains on injured reserve and is not available to return to action against the Dolphins. He will miss his fourth consecutive game due to a hamstring injury.

Samuel is eligible to play after being cleared through a late-in-the-week round of testing for the novel coronavirus. He experienced flu-like symptoms this week but was not placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list. That means he tested negative.

Even the common cold warrants uncommon attention.

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Coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday that dealing with non-COVID illnesses is a concern. Any sickness this season will require a player to self-isolate for two days away from team headquarters and pass multiple swab tests before receiving clearance to rejoin his teammates.

“Deebo was sick, so I think he was just a little achy,” Shanahan said. “I think he might have had a fever at night. Especially with flu season coming up, that's going to be common.

“But if you have symptoms, you're automatically out of the building, I think, for at least two days, because you need to pass two tests to confirm it's not COVID, and anyone who's been around you also needs to be out for those two days.”


Samuel took part in the position and team meetings via video conference on Friday, Shanahan said.

At this point, the 49ers want to keep the Dolphins guessing whether Samuel will be available to play. He is expected to play because the illness, at this stage, is not keeping him out.

While COVID-19 remains at the forefront of everyone’s mind, Shanahan thought back to the playoffs last season and how a less-serious team-wide illness can derail a game – or a season.

“I remember there were about 12 of us who were sick last year versus Minnesota in that game,” Shanahan said. “We're going to have to deal with that stuff as it goes, so hopefully we'll get some luck with it."

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The 49ers have 52 players on their active roster, as they are apparently keeping a spot only for cornerback Richard Sherman to be activated off injured reserve next week.

The team will need to submit only six inactive players to reach the 48-player maximum, as long as it includes eight offensive linemen.

Samuel, White, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis are available for Sunday’s game. The club released veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu early in the week.