49ers running back Jerick McKinnon strains calf at campAugust 13, 2018
SANTA CLARA — Running back Jerick McKinnon strained his right calf at 49ers practice Sunday, an injury the team says will sideline him for this week’s trip to Houston.
What initially appeared a knee injury, McKinnon underwent an MRI test, and the diagnosis of a calf strain is far better than a potential knee ligament tear. He will be re-evaluated next week.
As has been the case with other injuries that have mounted this training camp, the 49ers appear to have dodged a bullet.
None of the 49ers’ camp injuries are believed to impact their status for the Sept. 9, regular-season opener. That includes cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring), defensive linemen Arik Armstead (hamstring) and Solomon Thomas (concussion), tight end George Kittle (shoulder), guard Joshua Garnett (knee), nickel back K’Waun Williams (ankle), running back Matt Breida (shoulder) and linebackers Malcolm Smith (hamstring), Eli Harold (knee), Fred Warner (chest) and Brock Coyle (hip).
Since arriving as this year’s prized and pricey free agent acquisition, McKinnon has bound to become a vital complement to Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense.
McKinnon reached for his knee after a play in Sunday’s practice, but he didn’t leave for the locker room, stayed to watch the remainder of drills and signed autographs for fans afterward.
He didn’t get much of a chance at a stellar first impression in his No. 28 uniform Thursday night. He had little room to run behind this season’s reconfigured offensive line, and his three carries went for 2, 0 and minus-6 yards in the 24-21 exhibition-opening win against the Dallas Cowboys.
McKinnon also had a 7-yard reception, and that receiving aspect of his game is what makes him such a coveted dual-threat for Kyle Shanahan’s system.
Sunday’s practice provided a lot of reps for running backs buried on the depth chart, as both Matt Breida and Joe Williams did not participate. Breida has a separated shoulder and is out the rest of the month. Williams is mourning the loss of his brother-in-law, who was found slain Monday in a New Jersey park.
Raheem Mostert saw the most action, especially as a receiver. He made a valiant attempt but failed to catch a 40-yard Garoppolo pass, and he dropped a swing pass two snaps later. He did, however, produce a touchdown reception to open a red-zone drill. Jeremy McNichols and Jeff Wilson were the other backs, and Wilson fumbled a handoff on a red-zone drill
Here are other notes from Sunday’s session:
— ROOKIE’S NEXT TEST: Right tackle Mike McGlinchey is excited about the pass rushers he could face this week in Houston, where the 49ers will hold joint practice against the Texans on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Saturday night’s exhibition.
It remains to be seen, however, who he’ll face. The Texans kept their top defenders out of their exhibition opener, those being J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. “It’s definitely going to be fun,” McGlinchey said. “It’s why you play in the NFL: to play against the biggest, baddest dudes. I’m more worried about the heat monster than those guys. If I can stay upright and not lose 15 pounds, it’ll be a win.”
— MISSING MALCOLM: While Brock Coyle (hip) and Fred Warner (chest) practiced, Malcolm Smith was out again, this time with a hamstring injury he sustained on Thursday’s sixth snap. Smith also missed 5 of the first 6 practices in camp with a heel injury, and he did not play last season because of pectoral tear early in camp.
“We all trust Malcolm, and when he’s able to go, he’s smart, physical and plays fast,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “I know he’s going through nicks and bruises.
“We all believe a player needs to prepare to play Week 1, so there’s no shock value when you’re on the field and everything is going 100 mph. I would love for him to be on the field and I know he’s going through stuff, so I’m not challenging him.”
— MODEST ROOKIE: Two days later, Richie James certainly wasn’t euphoric over his last-minute, winning touchdown catch in his 49ers debut. “I’ve made plays my whole life, whether it’s college or high school level. It’s football. You can’t get too high off of one play when you have a whole season ahead of you. If that’s the Super Bowl, wow, I’m celebrating. But it’s preseason.”
— SHERMAN RETURNS: Richard Sherman took part in individual drills and showed no hindrance from an Aug. 3 hamstring injury that had sidelined him until Sunday. It’s unlikely the 49ers play Sherman against the Texans, at least in the exhibition. All signs point to him playing in the Sept. 9 opener, which could be his first game action since last November’s Achilles tear.
— GARNETT SIGHTING: Guard Joshua Garnett looked stout as he practiced for the first time since his July 29 knee contusion. Garnett only took part in offensive-line position warmups.
— COOPER’S PROGRESS: Jonathan Cooper, who sat out Thursday’s game against his former team, practiced at right guard with the second string. Cooper had a positive practice Tuesday and could be poised to make a run at the starting job. Mike Person has taken first-string reps since Garnett’s injury.
— WARD MAKES PLAY: Burned for a touchdown catch on Thursday’s opening series, Jimmie Ward rebounded Sunday and dove to break up a Garoppolo pass 20 yards down field toward Garcon. It was a similar route in which Sherman sustained his hamstring strain covering Garcon.
— CONCUSSION PROGRESS: Defensive tackle Solomon Thomas and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam watched practice as they progress through the post-concussion protocol. Thomas, who got hurt on Thursday’s second series, was not wearing sunglasses or a hat Sunday, so light sensitivity is apparently not an issue for him.
— ELI HAROLD OK: Despite bruising a knee Thursday, Eli Harold practiced in a limited fashion. It’ll be interesting to see who might emerge as his backup, between Dekoda Watson, Mark Zeocha and Pita Taumoepenu, who’s also seeing time as the “Leo” pass rusher.
— INTERCEPTIONS MADE: D.J. Reed picked off a C.J. Beathard pass and Elijah Lee made a diving interception on a Nick Mullens pass. Adrian Colbert dropped a potential interception on a pass Garoppolo threw sidearm across his body.
— ‘IT’ FACTOR: Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens has impressed beyond just Thursday’s opening act, in which he was 11-of-13 for 141 yards with two touchdown drives in the fourth-quarter comeback. “Nick, I’m not going to say the word, but he’s got the ‘It’ factor,” James said.