SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Three of the 49ers’ top offensive weapons — Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell — won’t participate in Wednesday’s initial practice for the upcoming NFC Championship Game.
Samuel surfaced on the injury report with an ankle issue that, according to coach Kyle Shanahan, has been hindering the 2021 All-Pro, presumably dating to last month’s sprain against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s kind of sore. Just being cautious and trying to get ready for Sunday,” Samuel said.
McCaffrey sustained a right-calf contusion and Mitchell a groin issue in Sunday’s 19-12 NFC divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys, a victory that catapulted the 49ers (15-4) into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at the Philadelphia Eagles (15-3).
“With it being the NFC Championship Game, I think there’s a better chance they’ll be ready, since there’s nothing guaranteed after this. Hopefully. Keep your fingers crossed,” coach Kyle Shanahan said.
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McCaffrey missed two practices because of knee and ankle issues before their regular-season finale, and he was limited the following week, but he was off the injury report ahead of last Sunday’s win. He has started every game in their current 12-game win streak. His understudy, Mitchell, has played three games since returning from his second knee sprain this season.
Shanahan said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will not resume practicing this week, after undergoing an X-ray on the left foot he fractured Dec. 4. That means Josh Johnson will remain as the backup to Brock Purdy, who’s produced eight wins since replacing Garoppolo.
The only other 49ers listed on the injury report are defensive lineman Charles Omenihu (oblique) and cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle). Both were to be limited in practice. Omenihu, if healthy, will play Sunday despite being arrested Monday for suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence, Shanahan said.
Last month’s win in Seattle proved a valuable rehearsal for Purdy and the 49ers getting familiar with their silent snap count to combat crowd noise. More is expected in Philadelphia.
“I remember us talking about that week, that we needed that rep, in case we ended up in the NFC Championship at Philly,” Shanahan said. “We got that and we’re very fortunate we did. I feel we’re good to go. He knows what to expect, he knows how we do it.”
Center Jake Brendel described the silent-count process as more of a sequence of triggers, and sometimes that allows the home team’s defense to get a jump on plays.
In eight wins since Purdy replaced Garoppolo, the 49ers have played all at home but two: Dec. 15 at Seattle and Jan. 1 at Las Vegas, where there was a pro-49ers crowd. Sunday’s Levi’s Stadium finale, however, afforded Purdy and the offense valuable reps, too, against a complete defense.
“That was a true playoff defense and it put a lot of pressure on our games,” Shanahan said. “It was a great test for him. He didn’t play much difference than he had in all the other games. Stuff was tighter. Things were harder. But he still protected the ball very well and made a few big plays in key moments.”
A third-down play call got cut off in Purdy’s headset, and he picked what turned out to be the wrong play, but Shanahan noted Purdy has consistently gotten better at anticipating his calls and even finishes what Shanahan is saying as he enters the huddle.
PRAISE FOR RIDDICK
The 49ers’ Nick Bosa is certainly not the only high-producing sack artist in this matchup, although he did win the Pro Football Writers of America’s nod for NFL Defensive Player of the Year and he’s a finalist for the Associated Press’ honor. It could be argued that the Eagles’ Hasson Reddick deserved being an AP finalist as much as Bosa, the Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones.
Reddick totaled a career-high 16 sacks in the regular season and, in his first-ever playoff game, he had 1 1/2 in Saturday’s win over the New York Giants. Drafted No. 13 overall in 2017 out of Temple, he played his first four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before moving last seasons to the Carolina Panthers. The Eagles’ scheme offers Reddick more play-making opportunities, Shanahan said.
“Pass rushers, the more they play in this league, and stay healthy and hang around, the better they get,” Shanahan added. “It’s hard to rush the quarterback in this league and he’s gotten better each year. He’s playing at the top of his game right now. He’s always been a good player and we loved him coming out of college. You can tell he gets better and better each year.”