49ers Notebook: Nick Mullens likely to start, but Jimmy Garoppolo not ruled out

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It’s (almost) Mullens time, folks. That’s the message out of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where the 49ers are holed up at The Greenbrier resort. The team is not utilizing the bunker there (to our knowledge), but it will have a week of relatively isolated recovery and practice time at a location renowned for the supposed healing powers of the springs.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the 49ers, having suffered injuries to five starting players last week, all of which are likely to sideline them for this week and potentially longer, would appreciate those healing properties.

“I’ll stop with the bottled water and get right to that for our players,” Shanahan said. “We could use it right now.”

Nick Mullens time

Shanahan all but confirmed that Mullens would start against the New York (New Jersey) Giants on Sunday. He would be “surprised” if Garoppolo is ready by the end of the week.

“I’ll be surprised if Jimmy gets back later in the week,” Shanahan said. “I know he’s still pulling to do it. But Nick’s ready to go and if something happens to Nick, C.J. [Beathard] will be ready to go. [Mullens has] got a lot of playing time with us, 2018, preparing him for moments like this. Always does a good job at practice and excited he’s going to get his opportunity.”

Trent Williams likened Mullens to Kirk Cousins, who he played with in Washington.

“It’s the same thing I saw from Kirk Cousins years ago,” Williams said. “He’s a serious guy. You wouldn’t know if he’s the starter or third string. He prepares every week like he’s the starter. There’s not a lot of joking around. We’re ready to go with him.”

A Dee Ford back worry comes with a reminder of his injury past

Dee Ford’s injury woes continue. Since joining the 49ers, he’s dealt with hamstring issues, knee/quad tendinitis which required “extensive” surgery in the offseason, and an Achilles strain in training camp.

Now, after sitting last week due to neck spasms, Ford is dealing with a back issue which has him out “indefinitely.” The team has no timeline for his injury. Back injuries are one of the more concerning for NFL players and Ford is no stranger to them. When he was in college, he had to have a herniated disc repaired surgically.

But in 2017, Ford felt pain in his back relating to that herniated disc, and his “entire right leg often was numb,” according to Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report. He landed on his back against the Denver Broncos in Week 8, ending his season.

Ford went back to Dr. Andrew Cordover, the doctor who performed the surgery on his herniated disc, and expressed concerns if Ford would ever walk again.

“The conversation was about being able to walk,” Ford told Pompei. “He was terrified of me playing again. He told me if I still wanted to play, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to do surgery.”

Ultimately, Cordover performed a lumbar discectomy, which removes the herniated disc material pressing on the nerve root or spinal cord. Ford, who is listed at 243 pounds now, dropped to 215 pounds.

Suffice it to say, there is a likelihood that Ford’s injury is related to these injuries. He has no return timeline as the team waits to see how his body reacts, but he’s almost certainly out this week.

“I’m concerned,” Shanahan said. “When you’re dealing with the back injury, you really don’t know the timetable. I know he’s gotten some medicine this week that we’re hoping helps, but that’s a wait-and-see approach so each day you’re looking into him, see how it goes. I’m sure it’s a long shot this week but there is no timetable on it because we got to see how the medicine reacts and if it helps.”

The other injuries

Both Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas were placed on injured reserve, with the 49ers signing Ziggy Ansah and promoting Dion Jordan from the practice squad. JaMycal Hasty will almost certainly be elevated from the practice squad this week. Both defensive end Alex Barrett and running back Austin Walter (who was on the training camp roster last year) were signed to the practice squad.

Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman both have MCL sprains and are out this week, though Coleman’s is worse than Mostert’s. Shanahan said that Coleman may be placed on injured reserve this week, as he’s expected to be out for at least four weeks.

“He’s worse than Raheem,” Shanahan said.

There is positive news on the D.J. Jones front, as his ankle injury will not keep him out of practice. Shanahan said he’d practice in full on Wednesday, meaning he’ll likely play Sunday.

Both Dre Greenlaw (thigh contusion) and George Kittle (MCL sprain) will be limited in practice on Wednesday and can be presumed questionable for Sunday’s game at this point. Jason Verrett was not mentioned and was expected, as mentioned by Shanahan on Monday, to practice for the first time during the regular season on Wednesday.

Other notes: Shanahan’s fine, Jordan Reed’s near-retirement, Jerick McKinnon expectations

  • Kyle Shanahan was one of five head coaches to be fined $100,000 and his team fined $250,000 for not wearing his mask on the sidelines. He pledged to “do better.”

“I’m obviously disappointed. No one ever wants to have to spend that type of money, but the biggest disappointment was, and I think our organization is taking this stuff very seriously,” Shanahan said. “Obviously, I can do a better job during the game of wearing it and I got the message and I will do a better job… I got the message and I will do better.”

  • Jordan Reed said on KNBR that he was leaning towards retirement this offseason. He had previously said he considered it, but had not revealed that he was leaning that way. He said, as he did then, that the playoffs and especially the Super Bowl made up his mind to return.

“I went back and forth a few times,” Reed said. “At first, I was pretty locked in on retirement and calling it quits. But after the playoffs and watching the Super Bowl, it just ignited me to want to get back and play in those big games.”

  • As for Reed, it’s clear, following his seven-reception, 50-yard, two-touchdown game, that the decision, currently, is paying dividends. He was stellar in training camp and has been described by Shanahan as the best route-runner he’s ever seen at the tight end position. Jaquiski Tartt saw that firsthand in camp, shutting down every player (for the most part) aside from Reed. After being beaten in 1-on-1s by Reed, Tartt said he had a realization.

“I just knew there was no other safety in the league that can guard him,” Tartt said.

  • It’s unclear yet whether Jerick McKinnonJeff Wilson Jr. or even JaMycal Hasty will get the lion’s share of carries on Sunday. Clearly, McKinnon  is the No. 1 back, but he hasn’t yet featured substantially in the run game. He has just three rush attempts in both of the first two games this year (101 combined yards) along with three total receptions for 20 yards and a touchdown. Wilson, meanwhile, had two carries in garbage time when filling in for Tevin Coleman, and Hasty is the speediest in the backfield and most similar to Raheem Mostert. Again, McKinnon is likely to get the most snaps, but whether he’ll be heavily used in the running game remains to be seen. Kyle Shanahan did say there wouldn’t be a pitch count for McKinnon or Reed.

““I’m very confident in Jet,” Shanahan said. “He’s done a great job in all the reps that he’s gotten in these two weeks. Every time he’s gotten opportunities, he came through for us. Obviously, with those two guys being out, he should get more opportunities this week and he deserves it. I know he’s excited for it and we’re excited to see him.”




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