This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
DETROIT – The San Francisco 49ers have been no stranger to disappointing injuries in recent years, but the one that took place late Sunday may be the most devastating yet.
With 7:54 left in a 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions, cornerback Jason Verrett sustained a right knee injury that both he and the team fear is a torn ACL. Verrett is scheduled to undergo further knee tests when the team arrives in Greenbrier, West Virginia later Sunday for a week of practice before next weekend’s game in Philadelphia.
“It’s crushing,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We hope for the best, but it’s devastating. The misfortune he’s had and put together the last two years remains healthy, and how good a camp he had … I have great love for JV and respect him just as much like everyone else I’ve ever been around. So I really feel sorry for him. “
Verrett’s injury comes with serious consequences for a team that was already thin on corner kicks, but it hits harder because of the human side of it. During a quarter-season (2016-18 with the Chargers and 2019 with the Niners), he played only six games due to a torn left ACL in 2016, persistent knee problems the following season and a torn right Achilles in 2018.
Despite these setbacks, Verrett has become a favorite among Shanahan and in the locker room of the Niners for his endurance. He jumped back last season and played in 13 games with two interceptions, seven pass interruptions and a 60-tackle in his career. It was the first time he had played in at least 13 matches since 2015.
All of this gave Verrett a $ 5.5 million one-year deal to sign with the team on March 15th. Verrett followed by clearly establishing himself as the Niners’ best corner kick in training camp.
“It’s awful,” said tight end George Kittle. “It definitely blows the wind out of your sails. He’s a leader on this team. He’s a guy who’s consistent, shows up every day, plays at a high level and plays when you need him. He’s reliable. And when it does, it stinks. “
When Verrett left, the Niners had a 41-17 lead. After he left, the Lions scored 16 unanswered points and had the ball on San Francisco’s 24 for a potential game-binding drive before it exploded.
Shanahan said the injury may have contributed to him going to his backups a little too soon.
“I know I got too worried about protecting our guys as opposed to doing everything you have to do to win,” Shanahan said. “We got a little caught up in it when we lost JV, but we were able to pull it off.”
Now the 49ers will spend the next few days sorting out a murky cornerback situation. Already without starter Emmanuel Moseley, who did not play on Sunday due to a knee injury, ended the 49ers Sunday match with rookie Deommodore Lenoir and training team call-up Dontae Johnson on the outside and veteran K’Waun Williams on the nickel back. Rookie Ambry Thomas was also available.
Veteran Josh Norman, who signed earlier this week, was inactive before the game, but Shanahan said he could be ready for next weekend against the Eagles and there is hope that Moseley will also be able to return.
Another option? A meeting with veteran cornerback Richard Sherman.
“We’ve discussed it,” Shanahan said. “I’ve talked to Sherm about it too. Sherm is always an option.”
Verrett was not the only 49ers starter to leave Sunday’s game with an injury and not return. Running back Raheem Mostert left with a knee problem (it was not immediately clear which) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw sustained a groin injury on a 39-yard interception left for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Mostert carried twice in 20 yards on San Francisco’s second possession, but took to the sidelines shortly after a 9-yard win on the second game of the series. Rookie-running Elijah Mitchell stepped in for Mostert after the injury.
Like Verrett, Mostert should have done more imaging on his knee when the Niners arrive in West Virginia.
“They told me they were not worried it was an ACL, so that’s really good news, of course, but that’s just about all we know,” Shanahan said.
Mostert has struggled with injuries in his career, and played in eight games last year as a knee sprain and a high ankle sprain cost him two and six games respectively. With Mostert out, Mitchell posted 104 yards on 19 carries with a 38-yard touchdown run. Mitchell’s 104 rushing yards are the most of a 49ers player in his career debut, surpassing Rickey Watters (100 in 1992), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Rookie running back Trey Sermon, who the 49ers drafted in the third round this year, is also on the list, but was a healthy scratch Sunday.
“We only had three backs on,” Shanahan said. “But it’s the three after going through training camp and things that we felt the three of us should go with.”