Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan wasn’t shocked by Richie James’ career game vs. Packers

Nov 7, 2020 at 10:52 AM--

Over 13 million viewers watched the Green Bay Packers rout what has been described as the San Francisco 49ers' JV team on Thursday night. The 49ers, after all, were without several key contributors, and the 34-17 defeat wasn't entirely unexpected.

Among those missing were several wide receivers, including Kendrick Bourne and rookie Brandon Aiyuk. Both, along with Deebo Samuel, were on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Samuel, however, had already been ruled out because of a hamstring strain.

That left just two receivers available — Trent Taylor and Richie James Jr. The 49ers also activated two practice-squad receivers just to get enough contributors on the field. Many of those over 13 million viewers may not have ever heard of any of the 49ers' receivers who played on Thursday night.

By the end of the night, they certainly knew who James was. The former seventh-round draft pick and third-year receiver exploded for a career-high nine receptions for 184 receiving yards and a touchdown.

James had a career-high 165 receiving yards in 2019. That was through 16 games. He eclipsed that during one outing against the Packers, and he did it after being listed as "questionable" for the game due to an ankle injury.

"I'd say I'm about 95 percent (healthy)," James said after the game. "But I'm willing to do everything I could to help my team. So, if I've got to get out there and play on a 95 percent ankle, I will. That's just what I did."

Kyle Shanahan wasn't too shocked by his young receiver's performance. The 49ers head coach was asked on Friday how much confidence he has in James and about the potential for an increased role moving forward.

"The same as I did before the game," Shanahan said via a conference call. "I've always had a lot of confidence in Richie. That's why he was one of the four receivers who dressed for the Super Bowl.

"Richie had some bad luck with injuries this year. If he would have been healthy in training camp with Deebo being down and Aiyuk being down, he would've started Week 1. But he's had some bad luck with injuries too. He just came back that week and then re-injured it, then pulled his hamstring in the game. He was out another month. Then he was just coming back from an ankle after last game.

"So, we've got a lot of confidence in Richie. I thought he was, I kind of expected him to do what he did because he is that type of player. I was just glad he was able to make it through the game because I know he was coming off an injury too."

Bourne and Aiyuk were removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, and Shanahan is hopeful that Samuel might return during the upcoming week. James will have to wait and see if he gets more opportunities, and he'll be ready to take advantage of any that present themselves.

"I know the opportunities will come, like it did today," James added after the game. "You've got to take advantage of those opportunities, and I did it really well today. Hopefully, they come more, and I get more opportunities."

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