In a season in which they have already suffered an unprecedented amount of injuries, the San Francisco 49ers came out of their Week 8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks with a pair of devastating long-term losses. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has suffered another high-ankle sprain to go with his one earlier in the season, while star tight end George Kittle will likely miss the remainder of the season with a fractured foot.
The fresh injury blows are particularly hard to take for the defending NFC champions as they continue to endure one of the most injury-hit seasons an NFL franchise has ever faced. Both Kittle and Garoppolo have already missed time on the field this year due to injury and the Week 8 loss to the Seahawks also saw Tevin Coleman aggravate a knee injury, adding yet another to a growing injury list that already included the likes of Raheem Mostert, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman and Deebo Samuel.
The 49ers now have a decision to make with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after the 29-year-old suffered his second ankle sprain of the season. Surgery may fix the issue permanently, but this would signal the end of the former Patriot’s season. Former undrafted free agent Nick Mullens will take over until Garoppolo’s return.
“He essentially had a whole new one, just on the same foot,” Kyle Shanahan revealed on Tuesday. “When you have those high ankle sprains, you re-injure them a lot. But it was a different way that he did it, so it’s basically doing it all over again in a different way. It’s usually four to six weeks with those high ankle sprains, it is worse than the last one.”
“We’re just getting different doctors’ opinions now,” Shanahan continued. “Whatever is best for him long term is obviously what we will decide on. But if he does need a surgery, then it will be all year. If not, then we’re hoping six weeks and we get a chance to get him back in the end.”
“Every week is a new week and you have to play with the cards that you’re dealt. I can’t speak much on the identity, but it’s all about making plays. You know, ‘who’s going to make the plays?’ and that’s what we have to get back to. Just making plays, executing at a high level and focusing on us.”
Injuries have been more frequent across the NFL this year as teams and players deal with a lack of a proper preseason and other Covid-related factors. The 49ers have been disproportionately hit though and head coach Kyle Shanahan has been given a mammoth task keeping this team competitive with so many injuries to starters.
As expected, Shanahan has risen to the task admirably and even after the loss to the Seahawks his team sit at .500. However, the NFC West is extremely competitive this year and a record of 4-4 is only good enough for fourth place. 49ers fans had been hoping that the team kept afloat while it awaited the return of a number of key figures but the latest injury news means that a playoff run is currently looking an unlikely prospect.
“No disrespect to Garoppolo, I think the Kittle one is more damaging than Garoppolo,” Good Morning Football host Kyle Brandt said of the injuries. “And I say that out of respect to Kittle.
“I think sometimes we try to be apologist for teams and say ‘they’re banged up’, and then there’s a little bit of an eye roll because that’s just the price of playing football. But nobody is banged up like these guys; the Kittle injury is devastating.
“All over the field, there are household-name guys, Super Bowl champs, guys who are first-team All Pro; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it this early in the season.
“Kyle Shanahan is a hell of a coach, but he’d better be Einstein if they’re going to make it to the playoffs.”
With another injury to Garoppolo and the fact that when he has played, his performances have not been of a particularly high quality, rumours have surfaced in the last week that the 49ers may look to move on from the 29-year-old.
“I’d argue that Kittle is the most valuable player in this entire league that doesn’t play quarterback,” Peter Schrager, also of Good Morning Football, said.
“Kittle is so important to that team because, when the offence goes, he is not only a receiver, but he is also a blocker and sets the tone.
“The Kittle loss is a heart-breaker and I think this might be it for the 49ers. I’m the biggest believer in Kyle Shanahan, in what that locker room has in as far as unity, but to lose Kittle – again, not to insult Garoppolo – when he is not on the field, they are not the same team.”