Less than 24 hours after their most exhilarating win of the season, the 49ers are dealing with the sobering injury news they’ll be without Richard Sherman and Dee Ford for multiple games, and center Weston Richburg for the rest of the season.
Such is life in the NFL, even for its elite.
Sherman’s MRI results from a test Monday morning show he suffered a Grade 2 strain to his right hamstring during Sunday’s win in New Orleans. Coach Kyle Shanahan said it will “probably be a couple of weeks” before Sherman returns, which sounds like he should be ready for a Week 17 showdown in Seattle.
Ford, who re-aggravated his hamstring injury after just four plays Sunday, will miss at least the last three games of the regular season, Shanahan said.
Meanwhile, Shanahan confirmed the team’s worst fears after their 48-46 win over the Saints — Richburg suffered a torn patella tendon and he’ll be lost for the year.
“It’s tough. It was a huge win and we enjoyed that a ton, obviously (but) some mixed feelings today with some of these injuries, which is tough,” Shanahan said. “Especially losing Richburg for the year.
“Hopefully we can keep playing well and give (Sherman and Ford) a chance to come back and help us make our season longer than three games,” added Shanahan, whose 11-2 team is the NFC’s top seed and can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday at home against Atlanta.
For Richburg, who battled through a quadriceps injury last season, rehabbing after surgery will be his next battle after being carted off the field in the third quarter Sunday. His right leg crumpled when Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle knocked him backwards. He was replaced by Ben Garland, who’ll now step in as the starter.
“He played like the guy that we hoped for when he got here,” Shanahan said of Richburg, who left the Giants to sign a five-year, $47.5 million deal after the 2017 season. “We were very appreciative of him this year.”
“Weston’s an awesome guy, an awesome player. You love having him out there,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said Sunday. “I feel for him. I’ve been there.”
Sherman, an unquestioned leader of the 49ers’ defense, limped off the field during the Saints’ final drive, grabbing the back of his right hamstring after tackling Michael Thomas with 1:50 left. He didn’t return.
“I definitely couldn’t go back in this one, unfortunately,” Sherman said after the game. “Like I always say, don’t count me out until I’m out.”
Although Sherman insisted Sunday he’d even try to play this coming weekend, the case for not rushing him back grew stronger Monday even before Shanahan’s prognosis. That’s because the Falcons, who come to Santa Clara this week, will be without one of their star receivers. Calvin Ridley, who has teamed with Julio Jones to form a dangerous duo, announced on Instagram he’ll be out the rest of the season after suffering an abdominal injury Sunday.
The 31-year-old Sherman, who has excelled this season, shined again on Sunday, allowing just four catches for 33 yards. His 88.7 coverage grade this season is the fourth-highest of his nine-year career, according to Pro Football Focus.
San Francisco figures to move forward with Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley as its starting corners the next two weeks.
The timing of Richburg’s injury could be especially concerning with arguably the two most disruptive A-gap rushers in the NFL up next for the 49ers in Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett and the Rams’ Aaron Donald. Nonetheless, Shanahan is confident in Garland, especially after watching his play in relief of Richburg Sunday.
Garland, who had played just 29 snaps all season before Sunday, played 36 snaps after replacing Richburg and he was barely noticed — a good thing for an offensive lineman.
“(Garland) did a hell of a job when he came in,” Shanahan said. “Replacing Richburg is a huge job. He’s played very well for us this year. And Ben came in and we were able to not miss a beat.
“He’s gonna get his opportunity here.”
In other injury news, Shanahan said slot cornerback K’Waun Williams is still in concussion protocol and that they’re still awaiting results of tests on defensive tackle D.J. Jones’ sprained ankle. Shanahan said they’ll see how safety Jaquiski Tartt (rib fracture) feels on Wednesday before updating his status. Also, he’s hoping to have receiver Dante Pettis (knee sprain) return to practice this week.
The news on veteran receiver Marquise Goodwin (knee/ankle) was a bit more ominous. Shanahan said the team is evaluating treatment options for Goodwin, who’s missed the last two games and has played sparingly the previous three games.
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