SANTA CLARA — Wide receiver Pierre Garçon’s two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers may be coming to an end.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Garçon, who has not played since Nov. 1, will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday, and will be placed on injured reserve.
“We’ve waited on Pierre for a bit, and he was going very positive for a while, and we were feeling really good about it,” Shanahan said. “It came back from that bye week, and it had gotten worse.”
It’s possible that after the scope, Garçon will have another procedure. Garçon, 32, signed a five-year contract with the 49ers in March of 2017, worth $47.5 million. The final three years — 2019, 2020 and 2021 — were option years. The injury could very well mark the end of his tenure with San Francisco.
“I know he plans to play,” Shanahan said, regarding Garçon’s future.
Garçon’s second season with the 49ers in the same fashion as he ended his first. On Nov. 2, 2017, Garçon went on injured reserve with a neck injury suffered in the second half of a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
He never got a chance to play with Jimmy Garoppolo at full strength, since he was placed on IR before Garoppolo’s first start last season, and he had nagging lower body injuries since the start of the 2018 season.
The former Indianapolis Colt and Washington Redskin has 628 career catches for 7,854 yards in a 11-year career with two 1,000-yard seasons, both with Washington.
In his first season with San Francisco, Garçon was limited due to injury, and only caught 40 balls for 500 yards — the lowest production since his rookie year.
“I saw P in training camp, when his knee wasn’t bothering him, and he was playing at a high level,” Shanahan said. “It’s very hard to do that when you’re not healthy, especially the ages that guys are at.”
This season, Garçon has caught 24 balls for 286 yards and just one touchdown.
“We tried last week, he gave it a full go Wednesday, swelled up on him and caused him a lot of pain,” Shanahan said. “After having that same thing through almost most of the year, especially the week before the Green Bay game that it really started coming, it was just lingering too long. We knew we had to get something done.”
Should San Francisco decide to part ways with Garçon after June 1, the team would incur $2.4 million in dead money, but would save $6 million in cap space. According to the NFL Players Association, San Francisco began the 2018-19 season $49.5 million under the cap, meaning they have a lot of room to pursue free agents next season, should they choose to add a pass rusher (or two) or a receiver to replace Garçon.
“You don’t get rid of people just to get rid of people,” Shanahan said. ” … You’re always trying to improve and get better.”
Shanahan acknowledged that the organization is making decisions on whether nose tackle Earl Mitchell, 31, Garçon and WILL linebacker Malcolm Smith, 29, will be returning in 2019.
“Those guys understand the business,” Shanahan said. “They understand how it works. That’s stuff that you don’t ignore. Those guys aren’t done … What you want as a personnel department is for them to be fully healthy so they can go out and play so you can truly judge them. They are getting older, but they do still have some good football left in them.”
Smith is still suffering through Achilles soreness Shanahan said, which Smith has called lower-leg tendonitis, something he’s dealt with all season.
“That’s why he has been coming out a lot during games regardless of who’s in, just because it’s tough for him to play for four quarters,” Shanahan said. “We thought it would get better over the bye week, and it hasn’t. He came to us a couple days before the game, saying he was really struggling to get through it. We agreed with him. We started Elijah [Lee] for that reason, and we were ready to bring Malcolm in, but Elijah handled it very well.”
Smith did not get any snaps against Denver on Sunday, but was ready to go in an emergency situation. Luckily for San Francisco, he didn’t have to, as Lee, starting just his second career game, made four tackles and broke up one pass at the WILL.
Defensive back Tavarius Moore suffered a stinger, he’s day-to-day. Defensive end Cassius Marsh — who had back-to-back third- and fourth-down stops to help secure the win in the fourth quarter — came in Monday with concussion symptoms and has been placed in concussion protocol. Linebacker Mark Nzeocha has a groin injury, and will be re-checked on Wednesday.
Matt Breida’s ankle is still troubling him, and he will be re-checked on Wednesday. He’s not played since he carried the ball just four times for six yards against Seattle, which visits the 49ers this Sunday. In his stead, Jeff Wilson ran 23 times for 90 yards on Sunday against the Broncos.
Safety Jaquiski Tartt suffered a stinger on Sunday, and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday. K’Waun Williams — who was a surprise on the inactive list against Denver, is nursing a knee injury and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Receiver switch up:
Marquise Goodwin, who had been absent from the team for the past two games to deal with a personal issue, returned to the field on Sunday and caught two balls for 20 yards. He did not, however, reclaim his original X position, but rather played the Z.
The thought, Shanahan said, was that Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne would share snaps at the Z. The two of them both wound up starting on the outside.
“We were going to feel it out as the week went,” Shanahan said. “I thought he had a very good week of practice and got better, especially as the week went. He didn’t work at Z all week, but he was comfortable with it. Quise understands our offense pretty well. Just talking to him Saturday night and seeing where he was at, we told him if he felt good with it, we were going to throw him in at Z a little bit more so we could leave [WR] Dante [Pettis] on the field a little bit longer. He was up for the challenge and did a real good job in there.”
Pettis had several miscues. He had two drops in the first half (one was erased because of defensive holding). In the fourth quarter, he had a drop that could have resulted in a first-down play on third-and-two at the 49ers’ 29. Finally, he was able to haul in a tipped 31-yarder on third-and-seven from the San Francisco 23 with 3:39 to go. That all but iced the game.
“I still messed up on that one, too; I ran out of bounds,” Pettis said. “I should have gone down. It was good, kind of being able to make up for what I did in the beginning, that dropped pass. It felt good. If we would have lost, I would have been so hurt.”
Pettis, who has four touchdowns in his last three games, is starting to come into his own in his rookie season. He’s increased his snap count drastically, playing at least 84 percent of San Francisco’s offensive snaps each of the last three weeks.
Due to his struggles with lower body injuries during the middle of the season, he only played 43 total snaps between Week 3 and Week 9, but even before that, he’d only logged 104 total snaps in his first two NFL games. Over the last four weeks, he’s been on the field for 231 snaps, including 132 over the last two games.
“Yeah, that’s definitely the plan right now,” Shanahan said. “It started in Tampa. But, that’s something just realizing as coaches, Dante, we haven’t been ready to throw him out there a ton because he’s shown he’s not 100-percent fully ready to handle that. But, what has been neat to watch him is, when we didn’t have a choice and had to throw him out there, he did some things that he wasn’t ready for that we anticipated.”
Shanahan said that in his first quarter as a starter in Tampa Bay, there were situations he wasn’t quite ready for, but he didn’t make the same mistakes twice. He got better as the game progressed, finishing with four catches on seven targets for 77 yards and a score. He was even better in Seattle, where he had five catches on seven targets for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Just being out there playing more, he is a very smart guy who listens and understands what you’re saying,” Shanahan said. “But, you’ve always got to put athletes kind of through those situations so they can feel it themselves. He has, and he’s gotten better from it.”