Injuries overshadow late 49ers rally past Cowboys in preseason opener


Injuries overshadow late 49ers rally past Cowboys in preseason opener


SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ first exhibition game was a loss -- even if the scoreboard said something different.

The 49ers sustained several losses – the full extent of which was not immediately known – during their summer debut against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday night.

Four starters and two significant backups had their evenings cut short due to injuries

On a side note, third-string quarterback Nick Mullens rallied the 49ers' reserves with a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie Richie James with :18 remaining for a 24-21 victory over the Cowboys in the exhibition opener for both clubs.

But the victory may have come at a cost.

Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who sustained a season-ending torn pectoral last year before the 49ers even played an exhibition game, exited the game during the opening Cowboys possession with a hamstring injury.

The 49ers are counting on Smith to be a big factor, especially at the beginning of the season when Reuben Foster will be serving a two-game suspension. Rookie Fred Warner (chest) and Brock Coyle (hip) did not suit up for the game.

Linebacker Eli Harold left the game with a knee injury.

Tight end George Kittle sustained a right shoulder injury upon falling to the ground after being upended after a Jimmy Garoppolo pass down the deep middle of the field fell incomplete.

Starting defensive end Solomon Thomas and backup offensive tackle Garry Gilliam were diagnosed with concussions. And backup running back Matt Breida sustained a shoulder injury. Breida’s condition appeared to be the least concerning of the team’s injuries.

Afterward, coach Kyle Shanahan said Kittle and Breida with both "miss some time" with their shoulder injuries. Shanahan said he did not have any specific information about the extent of the injuries.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played the first nine snaps of the game, picking up two first downs while completing three of six passes for 34 yards. Backup C.J. Beathard completed 10 of 20 pass attempts for 181 yards with one interception.

Joe Williams, who was the fourth 49ers’ running back to enter the game, accounted for the team’s first touchdown with a 1-yard score in the second quarter. Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2017, is competing for a roster spot after spending last season on injured reserve with a foot injury.

Williams gained 27 yards on 11 carries, and was also stopped short on a two-point conversion attempt from the 1-yard line after Jeremy McNichols’ 1-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter.

Williams’ biggest competition is Raheem Mostert, who made the club last season mostly for his play on special teams. Mostert gained 57 yards on eight rushing attempts, but also lost a fumble late in the third quarter.

Mullens completed 11 of 13 pass attempts for 141 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rallying the 49ers.

James was the team’s top slot receiver with Trent Taylor being held out of action. He caught a 21-yard pass from C.J. Beathard to set up Williams’ touchdown. James caught four passes for 46 yards, including the game-winning touchdown.

Another rookie receiver, Dante Pettis, shook free for a 53-yard reception on the first possession of the third quarter. That play led to a Robbie Gould field goal, cutting Dallas’ lead to 14-10 in the third quarter. Pettis was a second-round draft pick from Washington.

The Cowboys did not suit up running back Ezekiel Elliott, but quarterback Dak Prescott started and engineered a touchdown drive on his one and only series of the game against the 49ers’ starters.

The 49ers’ four-man pass rush did not get any pressure on Prescott. Left cornerback Jimmie Ward, playing in place of Richard Sherman, was running side-by-side with receiver Michael Gallup. But when Ward turned to look for the ball, Gallup gained 2 yards of separation before free safety Adrian Colbert could range over for help. The pass play went for a 30-yard touchdown.

Watch 49ers WR Dante Pettis crush BP homers in Minute Maid Park


Watch 49ers WR Dante Pettis crush BP homers in Minute Maid Park

The 49ers arrived in Houston on Tuesday, where they will hold joint practices with the Texans on Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, the two teams will play a preseason game.

With no team activities schedule on Tuesday, rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis took full advantage of the free time. His father is Astros third base coach Gary Pettis, so the younger Pettis donned Astros gear and took batting practice at Minute Maid Park.

In video posted by Fox 26's Mark Berman, Pettis deposited a few balls into the Crawford Box.

Check out the video here:

49ers notes: Practices heat up with Texans in Houston

49ers notes: Practices heat up with Texans in Houston

The 49ers arrived Monday evening in Houston, where temperatures in the mid-90s – and more than a bit of humidity -- await the team’s two practices this week against the Texans.

After 14 practices at the team’s facility in Santa Clara, the 49ers figure to learn a lot more about their roster while facing a different opponent during two-hour practice sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re very sick of going against the same scheme every day,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’ll be nice to go against something else, you know? Offensively and defensively, and it gives you two practices where you can go against different stuff, which prepares all your players for what they’re going to see during the year.

“And just for the monotony of camp, it’s good to change it up.”

The 49ers will be a bit short-handed for the practices. Eleven players sat out the team’s practice Monday due to injuries. Running back Joe Williams is scheduled to rejoin the team. The 49ers also plan to sign veteran running back Alfred Morris. The 49ers’ top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, are out for the remainder of the preseason with injuries.

The injuries across the board have impacted how the 49ers practice. Because of thinning depth, the 49ers do not have enough healthy bodies to form a full No. 3 unit.

“Once you start losing those guys, it adds a lot on another person,” Shanahan said. “Once you see a guy having to take reps with the twos and with the threes, it’s just a matter of time before that guy gets hurt. Those are the things you’ve got to pay attention to. You can get away with it for a little bit and you know you’re going to put a lot on a guy, but eventually once you see it’s too much you’ve got to stop the drill and just move on. It’s not worth it.”

After two practices against the Texans, the 49ers will have a day off on Friday before facing Houston on Saturday in the second preseason game for both teams.

McGlinchey Readies for Work vs. Watt

After being satisfied with his performance during his 23 snaps in the exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys, 49ers rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey is bracing for what figures to be his best learning experience since being the No. 9 overall draft pick.

McGlinchey is likely to go up against Texans perennial All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt in two practices. The reports out of Houston is that Watts has looked close to his former self after two injury-plagued seasons. He did not play in the Texans’ exhibition opener, though. McGlinchey could see practice time against Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

“It’s definitely going to be fun,” McGlinchey said. “It’s why you play in the NFL, to play against the biggest and baddest dudes.”

Morris Steps in to Compete

Part of the reason the 49ers are bringing in Morris to join the team is because he already is familiar with Shanahan’s system. But Morris will also get an opportunity to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. Morris spent two seasons with Shanahan in Washington, and Shanahan said he should have no problem picking up the 49ers playbook.

“There’s not big changes and it’s not that tough for a back,” Shanahan said. “They’ve got to set their track the right way and you hand it off to them and go run. We have a way that we coach guys and stuff, but everyone, when you’re away from something, it’s going to take some time. He is going to be rusty with that stuff, but he’ll get the hang of it.”

Undrafted rookie OL Alan Knott was waived to make room for Morris. 

This ‘N’ That

Shanahan bristled when asked if the injuries of training camp could have been avoided. “Soft tissue injuries, yeah, they can be prevented by having them not doing anything and sit there and just not get hurt and then it will happen in Week 1,” Shanahan said. “It’s just part of it. I think we are pretty smart with what we do. There’s a fine line, a very fine line. If a player is complaining about being tight, we can sit there and shut him down and then every single person who ever complains about being tight, you can shut down and then ask a group of 90 people in training camp to raise their hands on who’s tight. Ninety people will raise their hand.” . . . McKinnon grabbed behind his right knee after sustaining an injury in practice on Sunday. The fears were alleviated when an MRI revealed a calf strain, which will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the exhibition season. “No one realizes your calf goes that high,” Shanahan said. “So I think he was worried about it just where it was and then once he got the assurance that it was his calf, it made sense that he didn’t have that much pain. I think he felt much better. But at least he feels good that he’ll be ready for Week 1.”