The 49ers were hopeful left tackle Joe Staley would make his return Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals from his fractured fibula. But that appears less likely than initially planned.
Staley returned to practice for the first time since the injury before last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers as a limited participant but didn’t play in the game. Kyle Shanahan indicated Tuesday Staley’s prognosis hasn’t changed.
“Without us having a full-speed practice, it’s going to be kind of tough to simulate some stuff here in this day and a half,” Shanahan said. “So we’ll see how he feels. I put him more in ‘doubtful’ whenever I have to do that, but there’s still a chance.”
The good news for San Francisco is the offensive line has held up despite Staley’s absence. The 49ers remain undefeated and are coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season when they blew out the Panthers, 51-13, behind 232 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
Rookie sixth-round pick Justin Skule would replace Staley for a sixth-straight game if the veteran doesn’t return in Arizona. Though it’s looking increasingly likely the 49ers will have Staley, right tackle Mike McGlinchey, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon back for the following game Nov. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks.
The silver lining from playing Thursday night means more time to recover for the next game. And because that contest versus Seattle is on a Monday night, the 49ers will have 11 days to get those missing starters up to speed.
The injuries have allowed younger players Skule, right tackle Daniel Brunskill, tight end Ross Dwelley and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley to get valuable playing time that could prove beneficial down the road.
“Just being able to have that many guys that can fill in, it’s incredible,” tight end George Kittle said. “Being able to fill the cog in the machine and just keeping rolling. Being able to get those reps, that was huge for me my rookie year, that’s how you get better at the game is getting live reps against (other players). You can do so much at practice, but you need those live reps against other teams versus looks where you have to react.”
Shanahan said he and the rest of the coaching staff slept over at the team’s facility this week to prepare for the short turnaround. The 49ers won’t have a typical practice beforehand, but Tuesday they held a walkthrough inside Levi’s Stadium at roughly 5:20 p.m., the same time the game is going to kick off Thursday.
“I feel like sleep is so important on these quick turnarounds,” said Shanahan, “so we wanted the guys to sleep in a little bit more than usual and then we’ve still got to take a while to put all our stuff in, so then we decided to start practice at the time of kickoff, kind of worked out that way and it’s getting dark a little bit earlier here so we’ll just go in the stadium since it’s only a walkthrough anyways, so we can be under the lights.”
Shanahan said running backs Matt Breida (ankle) and Raheem Mostert (quadriceps) along with tight end Levine Toilolo (groin) would miss Tuesday’s session. Mostert has been listed on the injury report the past two weeks with a knee injury and his quad ailment was new. Also limited: Skule (knee) and Dee Ford (knee/quad).
Emmaneul Sanders trade was 49ers’ only move before deadline
Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline passed without San Francisco making a second trade after acquiring receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos last week.
The 49ers gave up third- and fourth-round picks for Sanders while getting a fifth-round choice in return. Shanahan was asked about the deadline Tuesday.
“The trade deadline is always here at this time and there’s always a lot of talk,” he said. “I’ve been a part of teams where sometimes something happens, usually something doesn’t. It’s real tough to do things in the league without making a lot of huge risks on it for not as much reward. That’s why there’s usually a lot more talk than action, but I was very excited with what we got done last week. Would’ve been excited if we did anything today because if we did, it would’ve been good for our team. The fact that nothing came up is usually what you expect.”
There was speculation the 49ers might deal one of their backup quarterbacks, Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard as the 49ers have had three signal callers on their roster for the first and only time since Shanahan became coach.