Injuries would be dominating the story of the 49ers' 2019 season had they not managed to swing at 6-0 record through the first seven weeks. The good news for the NFC's top team, and perhaps the bad news for the rest of the conference, is that the 49ers are starting to get healthier.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan on Monday told reporters that left tackle Joe Staley will return to practice ahead of their Week 8 matchup with the Panthers.
“I think he's going to try to get out there and practice a little bit this week,” Shanahan said of Staley, who broke his fibula in Week 2 against the Bengals. “We'll see how it goes over these next two days. Just talking to him, I think these next two days are big and we'll see how he feels on Wednesday. I do think there's an outside chance (to play Sunday), but hopefully we can get him out on the practice field a little bit this week so where he feels good and everything then he can go. But if not, at least he gets a little bit of work in because it's going to be hard to get a real practice in the following week because of the Thursday night game versus Arizona. ”
The initial timeline of Staley's injury was six-to-eight weeks. It's been five weeks since the injury, so it's an early return if he did get back Sunday. Then the 49ers play again the following Thursday, which may push the left tackle back to Week 10 for Monday Night Football against the Seahawks.
The fact there´s some semblance of optimism for Staley potentially playing Sunday is a good sign for his recovery to this point. We'll keep a close eye on his progress during practice.
Shanahan was less optimistic about cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. He strained his foot in Week 3 against the Steelers. Shanahan last week said Witherspoon may be able to go against Carolina, but he pumped the brakes on that timeline Monday.
“I was hoping for it,” the head coach said of Witherspoon’s Week 8 return. “Had a little bit of a setback last week, not big, but I think it'll be pushing it this week. There's still an outside chance, but not as much as I felt last week. ”
It may be another situation where San Francisco holds Witherspoon back to ensure it's 100 percent when it does return.
A big point of emphasis in the overhauling of the team's training staff was injury maintenance and prevention, and ensuring that players returning from injury are able to stay on the field. Rushing a player back doesn't seem on par with their frame of mind regarding the team's health.
The good news is chatter about Staley and Witherspoon's re-insertion into the lineup has begun. That should put them on track to contribute when the uphill climb to the postseason begins in earnest through the final eight weeks.