The 49ers believe their rash of injuries in the first half of Thursday night's preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys will not carry over into the regular season.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters that none of the injuries were serious enough to impact the 49ers when they open the regular season Sept. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida sustained separated shoulders, Shanahan said. Breida and Kittle will not participate in the final three preseason games as a precaution in order to ensure they will be available for the start of the regular season, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.
Veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral, sustained a hamstring strain on the sixth play of the game. Elijah Lee replaced him at middle linebacker.
“I do not think he’ll be available this week in Houston, but I think he’ll be week-to-week, and he’ll have a chance after this week,” Shanahan said of Smith.
Linebacker Eli Harold sustained a bruised knee and should not miss a significant amount of practice time. He is listed as “day to day.”
Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam now are in the NFL’s return-to-play protocol after being diagnosed with concussions.
When it comes to criticisms of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, they almost always seem to fall into one of two categories: his health, and his experience.
It makes sense. Garoppolo has made only 10 career NFL starts, with eight of those coming in a San Francisco uniform. Only three of those starts came last season, one that was cut short after he suffered a torn ACL in a loss to the Chiefs in Week 3.
So when The Athletic's Mike Sando released his quarterback tiers survey Monday -- which included input from 55 anonymous coaches and executives ranking the QBs into five tiers -- the discussion surrounding Garoppolo came as no surprise.
Garoppolo was ranked as the No. 19 overall quarterback in the NFL, firmly in tier three between Jacksonville's Nick Foles and Oakland's Derek Carr. He was ranked in the bottom of tier two a year ago, and the drop can be attributed to his latest injury. Still, though, voters remain optimistic Garoppolo will be able to fully realize his potential.
"He is really accurate, he is smart and he is athletic, but he hasn’t played a lot of football, and you see it at times,” one GM said. “I just think he’s got everything if he can stay healthy. It sounds like he will have a better cast this year, and he’s got the coach."
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The better cast being referred to includes running back Tevin Coleman, as well as two wide receivers selected within the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. If Garoppolo can remain healthy enough to utilize it, voters believe he's destined to put together a great season.
"Injury does not mean he is worse,” a quarterbacks coach said. “His skills are the same. He needs to stay healthy and all those things will show."
The 49ers have won 10 games under head coach Kyle Shanahan in the past two seasons combined. Could they win that many games this season alone?
USA Today's Nate Davis seems to think so.
Davis not only has the 49ers winning 10 games and losing six, but also winning the NFC West. Here is his explanation:
"Recovered QB Jimmy Garoppolo may have just one premier weapon (TE George Kittle) but has plenty of capable options to leverage in Kyle Shanahan's scheme. Should be a joy to watch healthy group, which has consistently fought hard and remained highly capable despite dire circumstances of past two years."
With a healthy Garoppolo and the Rams suffering a Super Bowl hangover, Davis believes in the 49ers. Not that much, though. He has San Francisco (the No. 4 seed) losing to Chicago (the No. 5 seed) in the NFC Wild Card round.
The 49ers haven't reached the playoffs since 2013 when they lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. Since then, they've fired three head coaches -- Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly -- and amassed a 25-55 record in the regular season.
But the 49ers have a revamped roster, even outside of Garoppolo's health.
They added weapons through free agency and the NFL draft. General manager John Lynch and Co. gave Jimmy G players like running back Tevin Coleman plus receivers Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd and Jordan Matthews. On defense, they brought in edge rusher Dee Ford, defensive end Nick Bosa and linebacker Kwon Alexander, among others.
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In the always competitive NFC West, 10 wins for the 49ers will feel like another Super Bowl victory in itself.