By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
SANTA CLARA — Throughout his first season as an NFL head coach, Kyle Shanahan was at the helm of one of the most injured teams in the league during the 2017 season,
Four weeks into the 2018 season, Shanahan’s roster has, once again, been ravaged by injury. With two players that have already been placed on season-ending injury reserve and 10 more listed on the team’s current injury report, the 49ers are fighting an ever-growing battle with health.
“It’s a huge challenge,” said Shanahan on Wednesday. “It’s the biggest challenge I think in our game. It’s a challenge that a lot of people deal with, that I’ve had to deal with in my career before.”
Last season, the 49ers entered the first year of a complete rebuild with the tenth youngest roster in the NFL, averaging out to 25.75-years-old. Despite their youthful composition, however, San Francisco experienced the second most total missed games by players in the league (283).
With a grand total of 45 players listed on the team’s injury report at least once in the 2017 season, the 49ers also placed the fifth-most players on injury reserve that year (23) in the NFL. The only teams with more were the Arizona Cardinals (26), New York Jets (26), New Orleans Saints (25) and New York Giants (25).
As San Francisco has attempted to move on from being a severely physically hindered team, a year later things have not gotten off to a good start.
Two days before the regular season began, the 49ers lost starting running back Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL, suffered in practice, that required season-ending surgery to repair and resulted in a subsequent injury reserve designation.
A month later, the 49ers’ $137 million quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, would meet the same fate as McKinnon after tearing his ACL during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4.
“Chalk a lot of that up to just luck,” Shanahan guessed. “Some years you have luckier years.”
Shanahan’s luck clearly hasn’t been good so far during his tenure in San Francisco. With McKinnon and Garoppolo done for the season, the 49ers have also had to deal with a rash of other, less severe injuries to several additional players.
According to the team, the 49ers have 10 players listed on their current injury report, including six who did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and two who were limited for the day.
Starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee), left tackle Joe Staley (knee), center Weston Richburg (knee), wide receiver Dante Pettis (knee), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) were all listed as non-participants. Running back Matt Breida (shoulder) and right guard Mike Person (foot) were also restricted to limited participation.
In addition, the 49ers have listed safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (shoulder) on their injury report, although the pair were cleared for full-go at practice on Wednesday.
“I know the fortunate thing is, not counting our quarterback and our running back, all of the O-Linemen and the receivers I spoke about today, they’re not going on IR,” said Shanahan. “They will return eventually, hopefully sooner than later.”
Only a quarter of the way through the regular season, the 49ers are now in a tough spot in terms of remaining competitive, considering the wave of injuries that has recently flooded their roster.
“My last year in Atlanta, I don’t think we had one guy hurt on offense the whole year. It doesn’t always pan out that way,” said Shanahan. “You hope to weather the storm and get through it and win some close games and you hope to get healthier as it goes, just like we did last year.”