The 49ers made an aggressive move in bolstering their receiving corps with the trade for Emmanuel Sanders this week. And they might get more reinforcements soon with the addition of previously injured players back into the lineup.
Left tackle Joe Staley was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice for the first time since fracturing his left fibula in the second half of the Week 2 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
There’s an “outside chance” Staley plays Sunday against the Carolina Panthers (4-2), Kyle Shanahan said, which would seem increasingly likely if Staley is participates in team drills at some point this week.
“Hopefully we can get him out on the practice field a little bit this week to where if he feels good and everything then he can go,” Shanahan said Monday. “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 prognosis was six to eight weeks. Sunday’s game against Carolina would be six weeks (five games plus the Week 4 bye).
The Panthers enter the weekend with arguably the best defense the 49ers have faced this season. They rank fourth in opponents’ yards per play (4.9) and lead the NFC in takeaways (15).
“They’ve got as good of a defense as I’ve seen on tape this year,” Shanahan said. “Reminds me a lot of ours, what they can do to the quarterback with their front four and still keep seven guys in coverage. Looking at the quarterback a lot, playing a lot of zone defense. They are very hard to move it on down the field and they look like they have one of the top defenses.”
Juszczyk could return Nov. 11
There also could be good news surrounding fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who sprained his MCL during the Week 5 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns. Juszczyk’s initial prognosis was also six to eight weeks.
But he said Wednesday he hopes to return at some point over the next two weeks, which puts him in play for the pivotal Nov. 11 Monday night game against the Seattle Seahawks (5-2), which Staley should be back for as well. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who had his right knee scoped, could also return for that game, he said last week. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is tentatively slated to return at some point during the next three games, as well.
Juszczyk said he began running for the first time earlier this week and his knee has responded “really well.”
“I haven’t had any setbacks, no inflammation, no soreness, and of that kind of stuff, so it’s all been really good,” Juszczyk said.
The 49ers have been missing their fullback, who is a key component to the NFL’s second-ranked running game. The team has rushed for 236 yards on 80 carries the past two weeks, a miserable 2.95-yard average.
Juszczyk has been forced to watch at home from his couch during road games the past two weeks. It’s likely he’s on the sideline for Sunday’s game against Carolina.
“It’s been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “I haven’t missed a lot of games in my entire football career, I’m a total of four since I was in Pee Wee’s, and these last two are really, really tough with just how well we’ve been doing. I just want to be a part of it, I just want to contribute, so I’m excited to get back.”
▪ Receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) and defensive tackle D.J. Jones (hamstring) were limited in practice Wednesday after sitting out Sunday’s win in Washington.
Tight end George Kittle (groin), pass rusher Dee Ford (knee tendinitis) and running back Raheem Mostert (knee) were also limited.
▪ Players who didn’t practice Wednesday for Carolina: pass rusher Brian Burns (wrist), guard Dennis Daley (groin), tackle Greg Little (concussion), linebacker Christian Miller (ankle) and quarterback Cam Newton (foot).
Limited: defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (knee) and linebacker Shaq Thompson (ankle).