SANTA CLARA — Twenty-four hours before the 49ers took the field for their first official day of training camp, head coach Kyle Shanahan was pleasantly surprised with the health of his roster.
“I think we had 20 to 18 guys given not in OTAs and we’ve only got four guys going on PUP today, so I feel very good about that,” he said. “In OTAs, we had as many guys out as we’ve had since we’ve been here. But now going into training camp, I feel as healthy and as deep as we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
Fast forward two weeks and San Francisco is now tasked with managing a handful of injuries to several starting-caliber players.
The 49ers announced Thursday that both rookie defensive lineman Nick Bosa and cornerback Jason Verrett will be out for the entirety of the preseason, adding to the growing list of injuries coming from San Francisco’s training camp.
On Wednesday, Bosa and Verrett left practice after each sustained ankle injuries during 11-on-11 drills. As a result, both players underwent an MRI to determine the severity of their respective injuries.
In Bosa’s case, after having his leg rolled up during an especially physical session, it was revealed that the former Ohio State Buckeye showed some signs of a high ankle sprain.
“I believe there are three components to a high ankle sprain, which makes it an official high ankle sprain,” Shanahan said. “But he does not show all three of them.”
Officially ruled as a “minor” ankle sprain, Shanahan says the former No. 2 overall pick will be unavailable for all four games of the preseason. He is, however, hopeful that Bosa will be ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season.
As for Verrett, the former Los Angeles Charger will also be sidelined for the preseason due to his ankle sprain, which now comes as a setback in his recovery from Achilles surgery performed last summer.
Verrett has also battled through a pair of knee surgeries, halting both his 2016 and ‘17 campaigns.
“What Jason [Verrett] has been through over these last few years, everyone knows how good of a corner he is,” Shanahan said. “For him to not be able to go out there and show it, I know it’s got to be frustrating.”
While both of these injuries are not as serious as the 49ers initially feared, the manner in which they arose is concerning for Shanahan.
During practices, physicality has reached its peak in part due to players wanting to make an impression on the coaching staff with limited reps.
On both Wednesday and Thursday, Shanahan has been forced to stop practice in order to remind his players that the team’s overall safety is the No. 1 priority of camp.
“I thought it was too sloppy and too many guys on the ground,” he said. “It’s tough to practice football… You’ve got to not let things get carried away.”
With the injuries sustained by Bosa and Verrett, the pair now add to a growing list of 49ers who will likely be laid up for some, if not all of the preseason.
Defensive lineman Dee Ford (tendonitis), Jimmie Ward (collar bone) both have portions of their preseason up in the air while running back Jerick McKinnon (knee), defensive back K’Waun Williams (knee) and center Weston Richburg (leg) have all been ruled out.
According to Shanahan, McKinnon, who returned to practice on Tuesday, experienced pain in the recently repaired knee after two consecutive days on the field. This required a platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injection to accelerate the healing process.
“[It] should give him about two weeks off to let that recover and then he’ll have 18 days before Week 1 after that,” Shanahan said. “If he’s ready, that’ll be great. If not, we’ll be patient with him, let him come back and expect one of our other guys to step up.”
With Week 1 of the preseason only two days away, the 49ers plan on limiting reps for their starters, considering the high risk of injury in these games.
For Shanahan, joint practices — which are scheduled to take place in Denver next week — hold more value in his evaluation process than actual preseason games.
“A ton more value, yeah,” he said. “I even put more value into what we did today.”
“You absolutely don’t need four preseason games,” Shanahan added. “I’d rather have zero than four, preferably I’d like two. One to evaluate the people trying to make the team and then just one to knock a little rust off.”
As for the rest of the roster, the 49ers will have some work to do in order to figure out who will be getting snaps and how many in light of the new wave of injuries, which is already testing their depth.
“We had a pretty good idea a couple of days ago, but it’s changed a little bit over these last two days,” Shanahan said. “We’ll get in, make sure everyone got out of this fine and try to reshuffle it tonight.”