SANTA CLARA — Early in the San Francisco 49ers Thursday practice for the Green Bay Packers, during the offense’s first full reps, Marquise Goodwin sprung up off of his right leg, twisted in the air and hauled in pass from C.J. Beathard.
That right leg has held Goodwin to just 96 snaps over the first five weeks of the regular season. He hadn’t practiced — in full — in more than a week.With a long history of injuries — Goodwin has played 16 games in an NFL season just once in five previous years — Goodwin had a colorful way of describing the injury that held him out.
“It’s not that painful to me,” Goodwin said of his latest injury, puffing out his chest. “I’m a tough guy. Naw, it’s pretty damn painful, man. Imagine you’re walking down a street, a pedestrian, and you got the walk signal on. But, a car just comes and rams you right in your leg, and you’ve got to recover from it.”
Before 2017, Goodwin had played 16 games in a season just once in his career. After posting 962 yards on 56 catches, he was poised for a big 2018 as San Francisco’s top down field threat. After a deep thigh bruise suffered on the 17th play of the first game of the season at Minnesota, and a resultant hamstring injury, Goodwin has played in just 26.7 percent of offensive snaps this season, but with eight offensive players held out on Thursday, a returning Goodwin was the lone fully-healthy starting skill position player remaining from the preseason.
The Packers are sixth in the league in total defense, second in fewest passing yards allowed per game (208.8) and are fifth in sacks. The 49ers have the 21st-ranked passing offense in the league by total yards, are 20th in receptions, 27th in completion percentage tied for second-most with seven interceptions and have taken 18 sacks — tied for the third most in the league.
Having at least Goodwin healthy will be a boost to an offense that hasn’t had many of its playmakers this season, starting from the preseason ACL tear that set running back Jerick McKinnon down for the year.
“It’s different, for sure,” quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “Defenses definitely have to game plan for having a guy like Marquise in there. It changes your offense a little bit and what you want to do as a scheme, for sure. So, it’ll be nice to have him back this week.”
Before 2017, Goodwin had suffered a broken hand in 2013 and missed four games. In 2014, he sustained a hamstring injury that cost him the preseason opener, a concussion that cost him Week 4, another hamstring injury that cost him two games and a rib injury that cost him another two. In 2015, he fractured a rib, missing four games and a preseason game. He injured a rib again in Week 6 and landed on the injured reserve. In 2016, he suffered three concussions. He would suffer another two concussions in 2017, but did not miss any time. Then came Week 1 of 2018.
“I didn’t think ‘not again,’ because it’s part of the league,” Goodwin said of his Week 1 injury. “If you played in the league, then you would know.”
Since he initially hurt his right quad in Minnesota, Goodwin hasn’t been able to play a full game, which has impacted the offense.
“It’s effected a lot,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s tried to come back, the times he has come back, he’s been alright for about a quarter and then his injuries caught back up with him … He’s pushed it through a number of weeks where he’s come out and it’s hurt him by the second quarter. Then you’re down a guy for most of the game.”
San Francisco has been beset by injuries in what was to be the next stage of a years-long rebuild. After McKinnon and starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo both tore ACLs, virtually the entire offensive line has missed time with injury, backup running back Matt Breida went down on Sunday with an ankle injury (and did not practice on Thursday), and Goodwin’s backup — speedy rookie Dante Pettis — did not play last week and did not practice again on Thursday.
Goodwin, after his impressive 2017, was supposed to help the 49ers stretch the field with Garoppolo at the helm and a strong run game. Pettis was supposed to provide dynamic speed and playmaking ability. So far, the two have played a total of 225 of San Francisco’s 356 snaps. The team’s leading receivers are tight end George Kittle (23 catches, 399 yards) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (14 catches, 197 yards). Pierre Garçon (16 for 188) and Trent Taylor (16 for 125) are next, and both were held out of practice Thursday with injuries.
Breida was deemed doubtful by Kyle Shanahan on Monday, and not much has changed.
“I’m not ruling him out,” Shanahan said. “He’ll be day-to-day. Still the same case. Still keeping our fingers crossed for it.”
With the sheer number of injuries to major contributors, finger crossing has been as effective as any strategy Shanahan has been able to draw up this season. In the second year of a bottom-up rebuild, San Francisco already had depth issues. Adding the rash of injuries has been a blow right to the chin.
The starting offense coming into the season was Kittle at tight end, Juszczyk at fullback, Garcon and Goodwin as the wide receivers, Garoppolo at quarterback, Mike McGlinchey at right tackle, Mike Person at right guard, Weston Richburg at center, Laken Tomlinson at left guard and Joe Staley at left tackle.
Of that group, only Tomlinson, McGlinchey, Juszczyk and Goodwin practiced in full on Thursday. Only Tomlinson and Juszczyk have not been listed on the injury report this season.
“I think I just listed eight guys on offense who aren’t going today. That’s eight out of 11,” Shanahan said. “There’s already two on IR, which would make it 10 out of 11. So, regardless of any situation you’re in, I think that’s something I haven’t been a part of much in my entire career. But, yeah, the more that you are at a place and longer the more you build not just your starters but also your depth. You shape the whole roster that way. A little, yes. But, more no. That would be a struggle for anybody no matter how long we’ve been here.”
-Quotable: “They actually cut my leg off and sewed another one on.” — Goodwin on his thigh draining.
-Left tackle Joe Staley (knee), right guard Mike Person (knee) and center Weston Richburg (knee) did not practice, but looked like they’d be able to go on Monday against the Packers. Staley looked to be moving well, while Richburg was working on core strength and knee stability on a side field.
Others who did not practice: Breida (shoulder/ankle), Garçon (shoulder/knee), slot receiver Taylor (back) and Pettis (knee). Kittle (knee), tight end Garrett Celek (quad), defensive back Jimmie Ward (hamstring), cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and linebacker Reuben Foster (shoulder) were limited.
-Kittle went through full warm-ups and caught a few passes in routes on air. He looks like he’ll be able to go on Monday.
-Taylor — who had back surgery this offseason — sat out with a back injury, which is certainly concerning.
“Some of his lingering things from that,” Shanahan said. “I think it’s been concerning all year. Any time you have a surgery on your back, whether they say it’s a big deal or a little deal, always when you’re dealing with your back it affects things. It’s not just your back always. It can trickle down to other parts of your body. That’s just some wear and tear that I think was a little bit expected after he got that. It’s hurting him more now than it has, so we’re trying to be smart with it.”