SANTA CLARA — After wrapping his hands in black athletic tape and sliding his practice jersey over his shoulders, Joe Staley bounced on and off his once-compromised left leg in front of his locker Thursday afternoon.
Eager to get out to the field, the starting left tackle jogged out of the 49ers locker room for his second day of practice of the week, preparing to make his return coming off of a broken fibula that’s kept him sidelined for the last six weeks.
“The plan is to play,” Staley told the Examiner. “I’m excited to get back out there with all of the guys. We had a good process that we went through.”
Along with Staley, San Francisco hopes to welcome right tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (knee) back to game action against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday. Five days removed from their biggest game this season, the 49ers will move cautiously when it comes to their trio of offensive starters.
“We’re hoping that all three will be out there [on Monday],” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But we can’t guarantee any of them.”
For Staley, Week 10 marks his second full week of practice since fracturing his fibula against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.
In October, Shanahan seemed confident that the 13-year veteran would be able to return against the Arizona Cardinals on Halloween night. He withdrew his optimism, though, stating that a short week of practice would make things too difficult put Staley on the field with the required confidence.
According to Staley, this was all done in the spirit of gamesmanship in order to keep teams off-kilter, especially division rivals like Arizona.
“I was never going to play,” he said. “It was all just playing games a little bit … You also didn’t want to not do anything for two months and then go out there.”
Still restricted in practice, according to Shanahan, Staley said on Thursday that he isn’t feeling any residual effects from the second broken leg bone he’s suffered during his NFL career.
While it’s taken some time to build back the strength in the muscles surrounding his lower leg, the 35-year-old says he hasn’t experienced any setbacks since getting back on the field.
The same can be said for Juszczyk, who is viewed as one of the most integral pieces of the 49ers rushing attack, which ranked No. 1 in the NFL before he suffered a sprained MCL against the Cleveland Browns.
“Honestly, I forget about it at this point,” Juszczyk said regarding the knee sprain. “There is total confidence in it.”
Juszczyk returned to practice for the first time since the initial injury on Tuesday. While he was able to run routes on air, participate in cone drills and do individual position work, the 49ers’ lead blocker was unable to test the joint in live work.
It’s something that Shanahan says he’ll need to see from all three players before having the confidence to completely clear them ahead of Monday.
“They’re fully healthy. I mean I know they are from a medical standpoint,” he said. “But I need to see what their bodies do at full speed, not just a few reps on a couple days back-to-back.”
Shanahan also noted that he thinks McGlinchey, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure to clean up internal issues in his right knee, is “a hair” behind both Staley and Juszczyk in regards to his progress.
In the event that Staley can play but McGlinchey cannot, Shanahan says that the team will be exploring the option of moving rookie tackle Jusin Skule — who has played in place of Staley at left tackle —!to the right side of the formation.
Three-year veteran Daniel Brunskill has played there for San Francisco since McGlinchey’s injury and has played well, helping the 49ers record their third game of at least 200 yards rushing this season.
“We’ll think about all of those possibilities but I don’t want to tell Pete [Carol} now,” Shanahan said. “But if [Staley, McGlinchey and Juszczyk] are what they were before they left, they’ll be out there.”
– While Shanahan expects to receive some reinforcements on Monday, he may be without one of his most important offensive weapons.
According to the 49ers, tight end George Kittle did not participate in practice on Thursday due to a knee and ankle injury suffered against Arizona last week.
Kittle took a helmet to the knee on San Francisco’s first offensive snap of the night, keeping him off the field for a possession.
While Kittle was able to return in that game on Thursday, he left in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals. The knee and ankle may keep him out of Monday’s game as well.
“He’s day-to-day,” Shanahan said. “We’ll see. It won’t be a division we make until later on this week.”
According to Shannahan, Kittle underwent an MRI on the knee and ankle, which came back with “issues.”
Regardless of the injuries, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo says Kittle’s attitude has not changed, hinting that he’ll be okay by Monday.
“He’s still George,” Garoppolo said. “Playing pranks on people, he’s still the same guy. He’s a high-energy guy and we love to have him in our locker room.”
– In the wake of a quadriceps injury suffered by kicker Robbie Gould, the 49ers signed rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin to a one-year deal Thursday.
According to Shanahan, Gould strained the quad in practice on Tuesday. While he says the 15-year veteran has “a chance” to play against Seattle, the addition of McLaughlin comes as a contingency plan in the event that Gould is unable to suit up.
“I know he’s a rookie. I know he was six of nine on his attempts,” Shanahan said. “I know that according to [general manager] John [Lynch] and all the guys upstairs and according to [special teams coordinator Richard] Hightower and our special teams guys, he’s the best one available.”
Before San Francisco, McLaughlin signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois where he made 44 of the 59 field goals he attempted.
McLaughlin also spent time on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad before being signed to the Los Angeles Chargers active roster in October, where he appeared in five games.