John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Richard Sherman cleared to play vs. Rams but 49ers will be cautious

Nov 29, 2020 at 9:02 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers are starting to see some players returning, which will help during this final stretch of games to close out a bizarre 2020 season. The team hopes to go on a run and overcome an uphill battle for a playoff spot.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan received some good news on Saturday as offensive tackle Trent Williams was cleared to return to the active roster from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Williams had been on the list since November 20, after testing positive for the virus.

The offensive lineman is a cancer survivor, which increases his risk while battling COVID-19. While Williams is cleared to play on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the situation is unique given how the virus's lasting impact tends to be different from person to person.

"I know Trent's going to want to go," Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. "I know he's going to do everything he can to go. But you've got to be smart with where he's at in his conditioning and stuff. If he is able to go, that's something we're going to have to look at throughout the game too.

"Trent's a guy that we can communicate with pretty easily. He's a smart guy. He's not going to hide anything. So, if doctors allow it, and Trent's down for it, and we feel it's safe, then that's something we'll do. But it's new for all of us. It's new for us. It's new for Trent. So we're going to have to feel that out each series, if it works out."

Deebo Samuel hasn't played since suffering a hamstring strain during a Week 7 game against the New England Patriots. The 49ers sure could use the versatile wide receiver on the football field with rookie Brandon Aiyuk still on the reserve/COVID-19 list and unable to play. However, Samuel is another player with whom the coaches plan to be cautious.

"He's going to be out there. He's going to be ready to go," Shanahan said. "Another guy we've got to be smart with too. Deebo's had about six practices this year since the Super Bowl, so it's a little different. He missed all of training camp. He missed the first, I think, three weeks of the season. That L.A. game ... was the [third] game that we started playing him in. Miami was his first week of full practice. Then the L.A. game, and then he got hurt in the next game in New England."

Samuel has only played in four games this season. He missed the first three as he healed from a Jones fracture suffered in June. The second-year wideout has missed the last three games due to his latest setback.

"Now he's just getting back," Shanahan continued. "I know Deebo's chomping at the bit to get out there. I know he's pumped to go, and we need him, and he's ready, so we're going to use him, but it's something we've got to be careful with too.

"When guys haven't played in a while, which we've got a number of those guys, we're excited to have them back, big time. But we've got to feel that out as it goes, and something that (receivers coach) Wes (Welker), Deebo ... they've got to communicate with me, and we've got to make sure we're smart with it because we don't want him just for this game.

"I'm really hoping that Deebo and a number of these other guys like Raheem (Mostert) and stuff, depending on how much they get in, it's very important that we have them for all six of these games."

Then you have Richard Sherman, who has played the fewest games all season of the three. The cornerback has actually only appeared in one game — the Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He landed on injured reserve with a calf injury after that.

Of course, the savvy veteran is one of those guys who might be able to just slip into a game without too much preparation on the practice field. The 49ers opened the practice window for Sherman on November 9, but recent events have limited his work.

"Just like I kind of said with Deebo, Sherm's got one more week of practice because we were able to get him in [practicing before the game against] New Orleans," Shanahan explained. "But then we only got one in, in the last two weeks with the COVID stuff and the restrictions on our bye week, so we've got to be smart with him.

"I love the fact of how bad Sherm wants to get out there. I definitely plan on him being out there, but it's not set in stone how that's going to go. We'll see how the game goes, and hopefully, he'll be able to play a lot. But we're not going to put all that pressure on him yet.

"It's different when you haven't played in this long, but he knows how to play. He doesn't need too much practice, that's for sure. But we've got to make sure he goes out there and stays healthy."

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