SANTA CLARA — Trent Taylor was sure that he’d be back on the field by now.
But sitting at a chair in front of his locker inside of the 49ers locker room, a look of defeat washed over his face.
“It seems like every time we ramp things up, I take two steps back,” he said, staring at his left foot, which was surgically repaired during the preseason.
On Friday afternoon, before facing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers placed Taylor on injured reserve. The designation all but ends his 2019 season, as he’ be shelved for at least eight weeks. It’s the second straight season he’ll miss due to injury.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Taylor said. “I know what I can do out there on the field. And I just want to go out there and prove it to everybody.”
In 2017, Taylor’s rookie season, the 5-foot-8 receiver caught 40 passes on 61 targets for 430 yards and two touchdowns. He developed a strong report with starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who led the 49ers to a 5-0 record to close the season.
Heading into 2018, Taylor attempted to build on that, but the residual effects of back surgery performed just before training camp plagued his performance. He posted just 25 receptions for 215 yards. After an offseason of rehabilitation and building his strength back up, Taylor came into this year’s camp looking as polished as he’s been since arriving in Santa Clara.
“He bounced back from the back thing last year and had a fantastic OTAs,” 49ers tight end George Kittle said. “In my opinion, he had the best camp, by far, out of anybody.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan echoed this sentiment at the time, but just before the preseason opener, the 49ers announced that Taylor would be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after doctors discovered a fractured bone in his foot.
“It was bothering me for most of camp,” Taylor said. “I finally got it looked at. Realized I had a fracture and the best thing to do was get surgery before it got any worse.”
The 49ers announced that Taylor had the compromised bone surgically repaired on Aug. 10, and while the surgery itself went according to plan, it was the rehabilitation process that became an issue.
“The bone healed up, but he had too many flare ups, soft tissue things around it,” Shanahan said. “A lot of things that were causing us concern.”
Ultimately, the decision came to to shut Taylor down for an extended period of time, which the 49ers say they hope doesn’t go further than eight weeks — the minimum time NFL players on injured reserve must stay inactive.
Without Taylor, the 49ers receiving corps — already missing rookie wide-out Jalen Hurd (back) — won’t be getting the reinforcement they anticipated on receiving.
“When you’re missing a piece to the puzzle, it hurts,” Kittle said. “Trent is a fighter and I know he’s doing what he can.”
For Taylor, though, the idea that he’s failing to meet the expectations of the 49ers’ coaching staff and front office hurts more than his actual foot.
In 2017, the 49ers spent a fifth-round draft pick on Taylor and have given him a roster spot in each of the last three seasons.
“I want to prove the coaches right for Kyle [Shanahan] and [49ers general manager] John [Lynch] for continuing to believe in me,” Taylor said. “That’s my main thing … It just sucks.”
The good news is that by being placed on injured reserve, Taylor now has the time he thinks he needs to fully rehabilitate his foot. This means not having to rush back to the field too soon.
“As long as I keep working the way I’ve been working, I’m confident that I’ll come back and be a difference maker,” Taylor said. “I just got to keep going.”
– On Friday, the 49ers announced the signing of offensive tackle Sam Young.
By signing Young — originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 — the 49ers hope to shore up their offensive line, which just suffered the loss of 13-year veteran tackle Joe Staley to a broken leg.
Young has appeared in 88 games during his nine-year career, including 12 last season when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Young has also made 21 career starts.
With Staley out for the next 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula, rookie tackle Justin Skule will make his first career start against the Steelers on Sunday but having Young as a potential backup option will provide San Francisco with some cushion.
Young will fill the vacant spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster which was left by Taylor after he was placed on injured reserve.
– While defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford were limited in practice Friday, the 49ers expect both to play on Sunday.
Bosa (ankle) and Ford (quad) both appeared in the 49ers 41-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday but Ford was forced to leave the game late in the third quarter after re-aggravating his injury.