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SANTA CLARA, California – The San Francisco 49ers breathed a sigh of relief on Monday after receiving important injury news about two of their best players.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner were hit by the groin and hind thigh, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased with the fact that both players are not expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.
“That was what I kind of told you last night that I was hoping it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And stems normally [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think that was very good news considering what it could have been. “
According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 12th. Aside from a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner themselves in a week is significant.
Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player and established himself as the league’s leading multidimensional weapon.
On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving goals in the same season.
Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent rise, as well as tight-end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a budding running game.
“He’s been a big part of our offensive,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a place right now where we can overcome that.”
Nor will it be easy to replace Warner, especially since it’s something the Niners have not had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first competition Warner has missed since joining the league in 2018, snapping a series of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.
When Warner left in the third quarter against the Vikings, the Niners turned to Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles to step in as center linebacker, while Azeez Al-Shaair remained as weak side linebacker.
How it unfolds this week will depend on the status of linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s fight with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since week 1. Greenlaw is considered daily this week.
And with linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers expect to get into the Seattle game sadly thin as a linebacker. It puts even more burden on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.
“Azeez has been ready for anything we have asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays as if his hair is burning and he loves to play football. It does not change, but he just gets more and more confident about where he should be, what he should anticipate … He has played at a high level, level all year, and whether he’s in or out, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty well. right now.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and make him a candidate to take to the injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.