Why 49ers CEO Jed York isn't concerned about injured players on roster

Why 49ers CEO Jed York isn't concerned about injured players on roster

PHOENIX — The 49ers have been known for signing players that were recovering from major injuries, but team brass believes that their 2019 group is different. 

In the not-so-distant past, the 49ers had the dubious nickname “Team ACL.” Running back Marcus Lattimore, defensive end Tank Carradine, offensive lineman Brandon Thomas and defensive back Keith Reaser were all acquired with the hope that they would return to their pre-ACL injury abilities. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the team has brought a few more players to Santa Clara after suffering significant injuries. Granted these players were acquired through free agency as opposed to the draft, but their abilities after surgery are still to be determined.

Linebacker Kwon Alexander inked a four-year, $54 million contract with the team even though he is recovering from ACL surgery. 49ers CEO Jed York explained why he is confident in the 24 year-old’s return, even if it’s not immediately. 

“There’s no reason why he can’t recover for an ACL,” York said. “He’s done it before, I think it was in high school when he had an ACL and he’s recovered. Kwon is the type of kid that he’ll be ready to go but we made a long term investment in Kwon. 

“We’re not going to force him if he’s not ready to play Week 1, that was a big conversation that we had. This is a guy that we want to be here for a long period of time. We’re not going to force him to be ready. Every indication is that he will be ready.” 

General manager John Lynch explained that Alexander can report to the facility as early as April 2 to start working with the 49ers training and medical staff. 

“As an injured player you can be part of the offseason and we can get our hands on him. We know he was in good hands with the Bucs but all of the sudden, once we acquire him, he can no longer continue doing his rehab with (them)” 

Lynch also emphasized that the plan for Alexander is long term. 

“When you do a deal like that, you want the return right away but we had discussions,” Lynch said. “When you’re making an investment like this, we’ve got to make sure he’s right. So we will hold true to that. 

“From all accounts of our conversations with the people from the Buccaneers, he’s on track. We’re going to do what’s right by him. This is a long term relationship with us. With any player we are going to make sure they are right when they are out there.” 

Cornerback Jason Verrett is a little further along in his recovery than Alexander. He suffered an Achilles injury at the beginning of training camp last summer. He will remain in Southern California where he has been training during the offseason until he reports for OTAs. 

“That’s part of the deal in free agency,” York said. “There’s very few perfect guys in free agency and the perfect deal. 

“It’s not a buyer’s market, so you have to take some risk and I think we got unbelievably character driven people and great football players and it might take all of them a little bit of time to get ready to get out there and play but we aren’t playing for August or September.”  

The 49ers potentially took risks with edge rusher Dee Ford who had back surgery after the 2017 season and receiver Jordan Matthews who has dealt with knee issues in the past. They also have yet to see what defensive lineman Kentavius Street is capable of.  He tore his ACL in a pre-draft work out prior to the 49ers selecting him in the fourth round.

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York reiterated that no one will be rushed back to play as the goal is for long term productivity. 

“We’re playing for later in the season and making sure that we have the team that gets us to January."

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 36-26 win over Cardinals

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 36-26 win over Cardinals

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers were in danger of tumbling out of first place in the NFC West on Sunday.

The pesky Arizona Cardinals got off to a roaring start and controlled the 49ers for much of the first half. But the 49ers rallied from a 16-point deficit for a 36-26 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

The comeback was the 49ers’ largest in the regular season since coming back from 20 down to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 2, 2011. In the NFC Championship in January 2013, the 49ers came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

The 49ers (9-1) extended their lead in the NFC West to a full game over the idle Seattle Seahawks (8-2).

Here are the 49ers’ grades from the Week 11 victory:

Rushing offense

The 49ers were having such little success that coach Kyle Shanahan scrapped the running game altogether in the second half.

“I think that was the first time I consciously got away from it in the second half, just because it didn’t look like it was going well,” Shanahan said. “I think they were playing really well upfront. We weren’t creating a ton of lanes.”

Matt Breida was sidelined with an ankle injury. Tevin Coleman had just 14 yards rushing on 12 attempts, while Raheem Mostert added 13 yards on six carries. The only good thing that can be said about the 49ers’ running game is they did not fumble.

Grade: D-minus

Passing offense

It was not without some drama, but ultimately quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got the job done with a career-high 424 passing yards, including the game-winning 25-yarder to third-string running back Jeff Wilson in the closing minute.

Garoppolo completed 34 of 45 passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating was 115.4.

Both of his interceptions came deep in Arizona territory in the second half and looked to be costly. Then, he drove the 49ers 65 yards on eight plays for the go-ahead touchdown.

Deebo Samuel had eight catches for 134 yards, and tight end Ross Dwelley had four receptions for 14 yards and two touchdowns.

Grade: A-minus

Rushing Defense

The 49ers had a difficult time bottling up the quarterback-driven run game of Kyler Murray, as he gained 67 yards on just eight attempts. And when he was not keeping the ball to himself, he was giving it to Kenyan Drake, who also had 67 yards on 16 carries.

Linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw led the way for the 49ers’ defense with 12 and 10 tackles.

Grade: C-plus

Passing Defense

Murray had a solid day, completing 24 of 33 passes for 150 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. But the 49ers also forced two fumbles in the passing game.

Newly signed defensive end Damontre Moore had a big forced fumble in the closing minute and Jaquiski Tartt recovered. Then, in a desperation situation, D.J. Reed scooped up a fumble and returned it 4 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game.

Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Jimmie Ward were credited with sacks.

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman had a difficult day in coverage against Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk. Sherman was called three pass interference penalties totaling 72 yards.

Grade: B

Special Teams

The 49ers held their own on special teams.

Kicker Chase McLaughlin, filling in for injured Robbie Gould, made three extra points and a 43-yard field goal attempt. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky averaged 50.5 yards net on his two punts.

Richie James averaged 4.0 yards on two punt returns and 23.3 yards on three kickoffs.

Grade: B

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Considering how this game started, the 49ers can feel fortunate to escape with a victory and a one-game lead in the division.

The 49ers bounced back on a short week to withstand a gritty performance from the Cardinals, who gave the NFC West leaders everything they could handle.

Despite some agonizing moments for Garoppolo, he rallied the team with a game-winning drive late in regulation.

The defensive performance was not dominant, but the 49ers made the plays necessary to win for the ninth time in 10 games this season.

Grade: B

Jeff Wilson's only offensive play helps 49ers beat Arizona on birthday

Jeff Wilson's only offensive play helps 49ers beat Arizona on birthday

SANTA CLARA -- On the biggest play of the game, 49ers running back Jeff Wilson was on the field for his first offensive snap.

“That might be all you get, so you better be ready for it,” Wilson said.

On Sunday, that was all Wilson got. And, boy, was he ready.

One day after turning 24, Wilson had a celebration -- the result of his ability to remain focused and loose. Wilson rose to the occasion to beat an all-out blitz with a 25-yard catch and run on a quick pass from Jimmy Garoppolo as the key play in a 36-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Wilson’s first career touchdown reception gave the 49ers the lead with 31 seconds remaining Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers added a touchdown on the final play of the game, when the Cardinals fumbled in desperation mode and D.J. Reed returned it 4 yards for a touchdown. The 49ers improved to 9-1 on the season, and Wilson was the latest unexpected hero to emerge.

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Matt Breida was sidelined with an ankle sprain, and the 49ers did not get much production on the ground from Tevin Coleman or Raheem Mostert. Coleman had 14 yards on 12 attempts, while Mostert gained 13 yards on six carries.

After a delay for a booth review, the 49ers entered the huddle trailing 26-23 with 37 seconds remaining with the ball at the Arizona 25.

Coach Kyle Shanahan made the decision to put Wilson in the game because he was effective running the upcoming play during the practices leading up to the game.

“Honestly, we were in the huddle initially and it was Tevin next to me and then I went to the sideline and was talking to Kyle and came back and all of a sudden it was Jeff next to me,” Garoppolo said. “You got to tip your hat to him to be ready in that situation. As big of a moment as that was, I think it was his first offensive snap and, I mean, to do that, it’s incredible.”

The play opened up for Wilson when Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph called an all-out blitz, leaving the middle of the field open and Wilson matched up against edge rusher Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL with 12.5 sacks.

On the previous play, tight end Ross Dwelley caught a 3-yard pass on a third-and-3 situation. Shanahan said he was going to go for it on fourth down if Dwelley had been stopped short. And when the 49ers got the first down, it gave them time to get Wilson into the game for his one play.

“It was neat watching him just because that was the play we were calling as long as we got the first (down),” Shanahan said. “When they were reviewing it and watching Jeff do high knees in the huddle, trying to get warmed up for the route. Glad he had the time to get loose.

“You had five guys in protection and they are usually bringing six, so it can be a very bad call or it can be a very good call. It’s going to be one or the other when it’s over.”

Wilson said he knew Jones would be matched against him when he saw Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick move a few feet to his left. That indicated to Wilson that Reddick would blitz and if Wilson exited the backfield around the left side, Jones would be responsible for covering him.

“I knew he was one of the better guys on their defense, but I also knew he was a D-end,” Wilson said of Jones. “His hips aren’t that good. He can’t move side to side, especially when his whole body was turned. So it was a simple one step, cut across his face, go get the ball.”

Wilson made the inside move on Jones, who stumbled and fell. Wilson caught the pass and outran safety Jalen Thompson and split Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson to arrive untouched into the end zone.

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The game-deciding play was not the only time Wilson stepped on the field, of course. He also served as one of team’s core special-teams players. He said he stayed mentally sharp due to the nature of the game and being in another close, thrilling finish.

“I stay warm by watching. My teammates give me thrills,” Wilson said. “You do a little stretch here and there, and I play special teams, as well. Special teams always keep me loose.”