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The 49ers will have to play the rest of the season without one of their most crucial defensive players. Linebacker Kwon Alexander, signed in the offseason away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after an ACL tear, has set the tone for the 49ers defense both from a practical, on-field standpoint, and energy standpoint, as one of the leaders in the locker room.
According to the 49ers Alexander tore his pectoral, a season-ending injury. He will likely undergo surgery next week.
Alexander was out for much of the fourth quarter and did not return once exiting Thursday night’s 28-25 win over the Arizona Cardinals, and was diagnosed as having a pectoral injury, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan after the game. Shanahan said this morning that he was far more worried about Alexander’s injury than the knee injury to George Kittle, who did not play in the fourth quarter, and who also underwent an MRI on Friday (the results have yet to be announced).
“Kwon has been great for us this year on the field, and as a leader,” Shanahan said before Alexander’s results came back. “I’m a lot more nervous about that MRI coming back today, so I’m hoping for the best but I’m a lot more nervous about that one. It’s gonna be a tough loss. Hopefully it’s not for the whole season, but if it is we’ll deal with it. I’m really hoping it’s not because he’s been a hell of an addition for us.”
Rookie fifth-round linebacker Dre Greenlaw will slot in for Alexander at the starting WILL linebacker spot. The 49ers mostly run nickel packages, meaning it will be the second-year Fred Warner and Greenlaw for the most part as the only linebackers. When the 49ers do go to 4-3 looks, Shanahan said that rookie linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, as was evidenced by Thursday’s usage when Alexander went out, would be the SAM, strong-side linebacker.
Shanahan also said that Elijah Lee would likely be promoted from the practice squad. The most likely casualty of that move is tackle Sam Young, as both Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey are in line to return this week against the Seattle Seahawks.