49ers: Injuries are Part of the Game; Opportunity Knocks; Next Man Up

Niners Live, with our pulse to the heartbeat of the team and the 49er faithful, comes again with a fresh perspective through a different lens and drops the gold-blooded mic: Injuries are Part of the Game; Opportunity Knocks; Next Man Up.


Injuries are Part of the Game

It’s that time of the year and season that the 49er faithful love to hate. ‘Injuries’. Yes, injuries can happen at any time of the year, and throughout the season, but the one particular time that fans hate any injuries to occur, especially major ones, is training camp.

And why is that? Because it can be deflating for fans and demoralizing at that, in fact, sucking the dreams and hopes of a potentially winning or inspiring season from the hearts of 49er fans across the world before games are actually for real and count in the win and loss columns. But I’m here to tell my fellow faithful that injuries, unfortunately, are part of the game. However, there’s light at the end of that gold mine tunnel. So please, sit back as Niners Live uses our platform and gold plated pick fork with the red trim to boot to help carve out some sense of optimism for you, the forever-faithful.

Recapping the injury bug

The San Francisco 49ers were hit with the injury bug early, and it now seems often. Training camp didn’t start well at all seeing players like starting free safety Jimmie Ward go down with a hamstring injury and fellow starting strong safety Eric Reid with an ankle injury who would later return back to practice. However, the injury bug would spread to back up hybrid safety Jaquiski Tartt, aka “Heat Seeking Missile” due to a rib injury, Tartt is still listed as day-to-day. CB Adrian Colbert also, got banged-up while defending deep against rookie WR Trent Taylor this past Saturday. Eli Harrold “Sam” backer has been out with a concussion along with fellow linebacker Brock Coyle with ribs. Tight end George Kittle, with a hamstring injury, is expected to return soon after he elevates from individual drills, but the injury has at least temporarily slowed his momentum. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner has been out due to an ankle injury and is expected back shortly (via Matt Maiocco) and the team’s updated injury list.

Sustaining Major Injuries

Malcolm Smith (WILL) linebacker is out for the year with a torn pec (per Ian Rapoport).Undrafted rookie Jimmie Gilbert (LB) is out for the year with an ACL tear and Joshua Garnett (guard) will be out four to six weeks with a knee injury (via ESPN.com).

With injuries comes Knock, Knock Opportunities

There’s a silver lining through the early stages of the injury bug syndrome for the 49ers. What’s that, you say? More opportunities for other players to shine bright like coal hearted diamonds. The more reps a player gets, the more you increase his experience level while deaccelerating his learning curve in the process sooner rather than later. It also creates versatility and added team value that coaches can utilize while maximizing their talents through a more rapid/in the fire (developmental stage). This also fosters and improves quality depth at multiple positions and areas of the team, such as but not limited to, special teams and creating scheme diversity and flexibility on offense and defense to deploy variations of unique looks at opposing teams in hopes of producing favorable matchups and wins, not losses.

Next Man Up at a Glance

Paging the following candidates at will, no pun intended, Ray-Ray Armstrong (Weakside/Will) linebacker who’s cover skills, tenacity, intensity and athletic ability will be highlighted now more than ever (see Malcolm Smith injury) and be on full display like a dreadlock bandit in the Heat of the Night. Rookie sensation linebacker Reuben Foster who’s been all over the field in training camp with at least four interceptions, multiple pick six’s and a fumble recovery will no doubt be in the mix/favorite to upset Armstrong vying for that (WILL) backer spot, indeed.

The concussion to Harold opened the door for the much traveled, multi-positional (Sam/LEO/Special Team’s-Ace) Dekoda Watson, whose scheme familiarity with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense allows him the opportunity to carve out a role/key cog in the rotation as the potential next man up. 

Note: The domino effect, starring guards Brandon Fusco, Zane Beadles, and Center Dan Kilgore’s roles on the team become even more vital and cemented in stone with the injury to Garnett – something head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke on in a recent interview on the (team’s website), as well as (Matt Maiocco) in his projected starting five O-line unit editorial piece. 

With Ward sidelined till mid-August at least, Tartt being banged up and the uncertainties of Reid’s health being sustainable long-term opens the door for safeties Chanceller James and Lorenzo Jerome both have opportunities to make the right 53, or worst case, the odd man out goes to the practice squad while the other stays and makes the roster. Both players have fared well in their next man up duties and roles.

And last but not least, let’s not forget Mr. Versatile nickel back K’Waun Williams, who’s been steady making plays and having a knack for having his nose around the ball constantly, which was evident this past Friday with an interception and on Saturday when he recorded a sack on a corner blitz.

I’ll simply close with this

All these players, as aforementioned, have the opportunity to showcase their talents and have increased roles now that opportunities have knocked on all these players’ doors on some level. Therefore, making them all the next players to watch on the next man up list. Until next time, this is Niners Live signing off. Go NINERS!!

Injury update alert as of 8/7/2017

DeForest Buckner is expected back today (Monday) after missing three practices with an ankle sprain; George Kittle is expected back today (Monday) after missing five practices due to a hamstring condition. Adrian Colbert (ankle), RB Tim Hightower (knee) and Jaquiski Tartt (ribs/illness) will not practice. They are listed as day to day (via Matt Maiocco). 

Recent 49er transactions as of 8/7/2017

The San Francisco 49ers announced on Monday that they have signed linebacker Austin Calitro to a two-year deal and placed linebacker Malcolm Smith on the Injured Reserve List. For more info on Calitro please visit the team’s website @49ers.com.

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims