49ers' Joe Staley avoiding IR for now as team tries to navigate multiple injuries

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The injuries the San Francisco 49ers suffered Sunday in Philadelphia were so numerous that coach Kyle Shanahan began his Monday news conference by running down a list of every injured player and his status.

Some of those updates were positive, and some were not.

Some good news for San Francisco: Shanahan said that left tackle Joe Staley, who suffered a fractured orbital bone below his right eye, will likely avoid landing on injured reserve.

"I don't think we'll have to IR [him]," Shanahan said. "[We're] still looking into that but definitely don't plan on having him until at least after the bye week."

Staley returned to the Bay Area on Monday morning after staying in a Philadelphia hospital overnight. He said he did not need surgery on the eye and, though he had plenty of swelling that prevented him from sleeping Sunday night, he was confident he'd be able to return to play this year.

Shanahan also revealed that rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is dealing with a knee sprain but, like Staley, could return as early as the Nov. 26 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The injuries weren't so short-term for others on the list. Free safety Jimmie Ward, who suffered a fractured forearm, and right tackle Garry Gilliam, who is dealing with a knee injury, are both headed to season-ending injured reserve.

With Ward out, Shanahan said he is leaning toward ending the Eric Reid as linebacker experiment and moving him back to strong safety with Jaquiski Tartt switching from strong to free safety in Ward's stead.

At tackle, the succession plan is less clear. Starting right tackle Trent Brown missed Sunday's game with a concussion but could return this week. Even if he does, the Niners will need to add depth and figure out who will replace Staley on the left side.

When asked who his starting left tackle is right now, Shanahan said "good question" and that will be one of the many things the Niners discuss in the next 24 hours.

"We're definitely going to have to make some moves, especially at the tackle position," Shanahan said. "We don't have those numbers on our team so over the next 24 hours we're going to have to work on this to fill out our roster, decide on who can go on IR, to know what roster spots are open and the guys that aren't on IR, deciding who we're going to let go to bring some guys up to possibly get some guys out there."

According to Shanahan, receiver Pierre Garcon (neck) is going to be questionable this week and he's also hopeful that cornerback K'Waun Williams (quadriceps), running back Matt Breida (knee), guard Brandon Fusco (biceps) and linebacker Reuben Foster (ankle/ribs) will have a chance to play Sunday against Arizona. Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones (knee) is not expected to be available.

Though Shanahan and his players have been quick to remind that injuries are an issue for every team in the league, he did acknowledge that this was a first for him in terms of the sheer volume of injured players.

"It took some time," Shanahan said. "It was more than I have had to deal with. There were a lot of guys to go through and not all of it is just clear-cut answers either so you've got to talk and understand it as well as I possibly can.

"It's more just trying to get an idea for how long things are going to be because you've got to make that decision. When guys are hurt, that's a tough thing. They can't play when they're hurt, but if they're not going to be out for a long period time, you can't also sign other guys to replace them. They still count on your active roster, so trying to find out how serious the injuries are, how long they'll be out, guys like Joe and stuff like that, kind of limits what you can do until you know for sure whether you'll have that roster spot."