Jerick McKinnon injury a big blow, but 49ers still confident in RBs

Jerick McKinnon injury a big blow, but 49ers still confident in RBs

SANTA CLARA -- When running back Jerick McKinnon went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament  in his right knee on Saturday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had to rethink his past six months of planning.

That’s because Shanahan insisted that the 49ers’ front office sign McKinnon, a running back he felt was the most perfect of the available offseason options and an improvement over Carlos Hyde.

“You don’t get anything down on paper and give it to your team, but since the day we signed him we’ve been game-planning for Minnesota,” Shanahan said. “So I’m not going to lie. It changes things pretty drastically. That was our first target in free agency, so once you do it, you have a plan on how to use him, especially going into Week 1. So that definitely changes.”

The 49ers open the regular season on Sunday against McKinnon's former team, the Minnesota Vikings.

McKinnon sat out the final three preseason games after sustaining a strained muscle high on his right calf during a practice on Aug. 12. It is unclear whether that injury contributed to the season-ending knee injury he sustained on Saturday during a routine outside run play.

“Yeah, it sucks,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “For a guy who works as hard as he does and puts as much as he puts into this team, it’s tough. But, you know, we’ve got to move on. Injuries happen in this league. That’s kind of part of it.”

McKinnon missed five games as a rookie with the Vikings due to a back injury. In the past three years, he missed just one game due to an ankle sprain. After four seasons with the Vikings used primarily as a backup or a change-of-pace running back, McKinnon received a four-year, $30 million contract from the 49ers as a free agent.

"I’m sorry it happened to Jerick,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told Bay Area reporters on a conference call. “He’s a great kid. He was great for us – good hard-worker with a smile on his face every day. I’m sure they’re going to miss him in some ways, but they’ve got some other good backs."

Veteran Alfred Morris was signed before the 49ers second preseason game. He is an inside runner who is not as explosive as either McKinnon or Matt Breida. Morris and Breida will likely share the load. Breida is expected to take more of the outside zone runs and catches out of the backfield.

"These guys are hard workers,” Garoppolo said. “Me and Matt have been going since last year together. It’s good to have him back full-speed now. We’ve still got a good group back there.”

How the 49ers plan to use Morris and Breida is expected to be a week-to-week decision that faces Shanahan and his coaching staff. Breida is returning to practice this week after sitting out the final three games of the preseason with a separated shoulder.

“We’ll see how the week goes,” Shanahan said. “This is Breida’s first full week back from his injury, so we’ve got to see how healthy he is. It probably depends on a lot of personnel groupings, what plays we are running, things like that. So, (I) probably won’t have an idea on that until Saturday night.”

This Sunday, be sure to watch 49ers Pregame Live at 9 a.m. 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’ season opener.

Deebo Samuel wants Jets' Jamal Adams on 49ers as trade rumors swirl

Deebo Samuel wants Jets' Jamal Adams on 49ers as trade rumors swirl

Deebo Samuel likes the idea of another potential Super Bowl run for the 49ers.

All-Pro New York Jets safety Jamal Adams has requested a trade from the Big Apple, and the 49ers have been one of his most-rumored potential destinations. Samuel took to his Instagram story on Thursday night to send a subtle message of encouragement to the 24-year-old safety.

[RELATED: George Kittle 'really proud' of team's offseason work, effort]

Both the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have been reported to be in negotiations with the Jets regarding Adams, who has been an All-Pro in each of the past two seasons.

There are plenty of potential hurdles for the 49ers if they wanted to complete a potential trade for Adams. He has two years remaining on his rookie deal in New York and holds very little leverage outside of opting not to report to training camp and holding out. The Jets rightfully are asking for a high price, likely needing at least one first-round pick to even have a seat at the table in negotiations. All of that neglects to mention that Adams wants to be paid like the NFL's best safety (which he has a pretty good argument for being), but the 49ers' front office still has to pay George Kittle what is expected to be well above the current tight end market value.

Nevertheless, you can't blame Deebo for trying to bring as much talent to the 49ers as possible. 

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NFL rumors: 49ers, Seahawks have discussed Jamal Adams trade with Jets

NFL rumors: 49ers, Seahawks have discussed Jamal Adams trade with Jets

Back in May, I suggested the 49ers should pursue a trade for New York Jets star safety Jamal Adams. Then, last month, he formally requested a trade from his incumbent team and included San Francisco on the shortlist of teams he would welcome a trade to.

Acquiring a player of Adams' ilk would be challenging to say the least. Prohibitive, perhaps. It likely would cost more than a pretty penny in assets, and then there's the matter of paying him what he wants. The entire impetus for his trade demand is that he deservedly wants to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL, and he is dissatisfied with the Jets for dragging their feet.

I get it. The 49ers already are limited in cap space, and George Kittle has yet to sign a contract extension. Then there's the financial impact of the coronavirus, which could significantly lower the salary cap for next season and possibly beyond. Adding Adams to the fold likely would mean at least one noteworthy contributor on the team would soon be playing elsewhere. And, draft picks are particularly valuable for cap-strapped teams.

However ...

Adams won't turn 25 until October. Any team acquiring him could count on many more seasons of outstanding production. He also carries modest cap hits of $7.2 million and $9.9 million for the next two seasons, and reportedly would be willing to go to one of his preferred destinations without a pre-arranged extension. He's not much older than the prospects in next year's draft, and sorry, but he's better than all of them -- especially those at the end of the first round, where the 49ers likely will be picking.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

'But the cap is going to go way down,' you say. In the immediate, that's correct, it's basically a certainty. But clearly, the Kansas City Chiefs expect the cap to rise significantly in the coming years. They just signed Patrick Mahomes -- who turns 25 in September -- to a gargantuan 10-year contract that could be worth up to $503 million. Sure, they could come to regret it, big time. But Mahomes is worth the risk.

As for Kittle, yes, he still needs to -- and will be -- paid. However, it seems likely he'll end up signing an extension for an annual salary well below the massive numbers that were being thrown around at the beginning of the offseason. It's not that he doesn't deserve it. It's just the way the NFL works.

Perhaps those factors explain why Sports Illustrated's Corbin Smith reported Thursday, citing multiple sources, that the 49ers have had preliminary discussions with the Jets about Adams' availability.

And, within Smith's report, he laid out yet another reason why San Francisco might be willing to do what it takes to get Adams: the Seattle Seahawks.

Just like the 49ers, the Seahawks -- who also were on Adams' shortlist -- reportedly recently engaged New York in preliminary discussions for the standout safety. Smith suggested Seattle likely would have to part with its 2021 first-round draft pick, as well as additional draft assets and/or players to acquire him. That gives you an idea of what the 49ers would have to give up.

That's a steep price, to be sure. But I'd argue it'd be a lot more palatable than having him play not just in San Francisco's division, but for the 49ers' most bitter rival for many years to come.

[RELATED: Lott believes 49ers trading for Adams would be 'huge win']

The 49ers were at least one tier above the Seahawks last season, but let's not forget, they literally beat out Seattle for the NFC West title by a matter of inches.

Adams already is a game-changer. San Francisco cannot afford to let him become a division-changer. If that means paying a hefty price and taking on more risk, so be it.