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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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Rough, injury-filled season continues for 49ers running backs

Dec 20, 2020 at 4:23 PM--

Before the 2020 season started, it appeared the San Francisco 49ers might have too many talented running backs on the roster and not enough carries to go around. But no one could have predicted at the time that the running back room would go through a seemingly never-ending run of injuries that would cause the running back situation to constantly fluctuate.

The 49ers rode their high-production running game to Super Bowl LIV in 2019, but this year's injury-riddled crew headed into the Week 15 game against the Dallas Cowboys ranked in the bottom half of the league at 109.7 yards per game, due in large part to continuing injuries. The running game got rolling against the Cowboys with 150 yards and one touchdown on 36 carries in a 41-33 loss, but leading backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson both left the game at times due to injuries after having dealt with them off and on throughout the season.

Fortunately, Wilson returned to the game and his injury appears to be nothing serious, but Mostert didn't come back after aggravating an ankle injury in the second half. It was the latest chapter in a frustrating string of injuries that has spanned the entire season for the 49ers running backs.

"Every time they get out there and they start playing and get into the game, they end up popping back up again," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the loss to the Cowboys. "It's been a tough year for all those guys."

Even though Wilson's injury wasn't enough to keep him on the sidelines, he showed visible frustration when he had to momentarily exit due to what appeared to be a hamstring issue. He slammed his helmet to the turf after leaving the game, looking like he had lost his patience after having to deal with ankle problems earlier in the season. Wilson didn't verify that the injury was what caused him to slam his helmet, but his frustration still could be looked at as being symbolic of what the running backs have had to deal with over the past few months.

"That was just something personal," Wilson told reporters. "Now that I look back on it, even right after I did it, I know I shouldn't have done it. No matter what the situation was, no matter what caused me to do it, I shouldn't have done it. I've got to keep my composure at all times, no matter what that is."

There are still two games left in the season for the 49ers, but it remains to be seen which running backs will get carries the rest of the way. Wilson and Mostert each were given 16 carries against the Cowboys, while Tevin Coleman had three and Jerick McKinnon had zero. The 49ers may have to lean more on Coleman and McKinnon against the Arizona Cardinals next week if Mostert can't play, as well as possibly Austin Walter, who was out for the game against the Cowboys due to COVID-19.

"I'm not sure when (Walter) gets back," Shanahan said. "Those guys have been banged up -- all three of them. That's how Tevin's been too. It's why Tevin hasn't been playing much. All the running backs we played with last year have been battling hard this year to stay out there. They all got injuries earlier in the season. They've battled to come back, but they've had some tough injuries that linger."


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