Kyle Shanahan and Mohamed Sanu spent only one season together with the Atlanta Falcons, but the now-49ers coach is confident that the receiver, if needed, will be ready Sunday.
Due to NFL's COVID-19 testing protocols, Sanu cannot practice with the 49ers until Friday. Until then, he will participate in team meetings and learn Shanahan’s game plan for Sunday's Week 2 contest against the New York Jets.
“That’s the benefit of being with someone before,” Shanahan said. “He’s familiar with the offense. He only had one year away from it and did some very similar verbiage in Atlanta, even after I left.”
Friday’s sessions usually are a walk-through or half speed, so Sanu won’t have the benefit of practicing at full speed with the offense, but Shanahan isn’t worried. He knows the veteran receiver will catch on quickly, deeming him a “pro.”
The 49ers have had unfortunate luck with the health of their wide receivers. After a setback with a Jones fracture in his foot, including increased soreness, Deebo Samuel was placed on short-term IR. Shanahan hopes to have the receiver back for Week 4.
Primary kickoff returner Richie James left Sunday’s game early after suffering a hamstring strain, and rookie Brandon Aiyuk still is nursing a hamstring strain he sustained during training camp.
Sanu’s transition joining the 49ers should be smooth. Shanahan confirmed that the receiver already knows all four receiver roles and can be plugged in wherever he is needed. Shanahan also shared that he feels fortunate that the team got Sanu when they did.
“He’s familiar with it,” Shanahan said. “It’s good that we got him done so he can at least listen to our meetings. He can’t be here, but he has an idea of the game plan, can see it all.”
In his eight NFL seasons, Sanu has played for the Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots and the Falcons. He has caught 403 passes for 4,507 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also also been used in the run game with 41 carries for 223 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Shanahan would not confirm that Sanu would have a significant role immediately, but admitted that it was a possibility. The coach’s decision will depends heavily on the health of the other wide receivers as the week progresses.