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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

WR Jalen Hurd’s return called a ‘success’ by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

Aug 29, 2021 at 7:11 PM--

Jalen Hurd was far from perfect in his return to the football field on Sunday, but given what he went through to get there, it was a step in the right direction, according to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Hurd hasn't played much at all for the 49ers since being selected in Round 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft. He missed his first NFL season due to back issues, then missed the 2020 season after tearing an ACL in training camp. Hurd was sidelined for the first two games of this year's preseason and also missed some practice time, leading to some question over whether or not he'd make the 53-man roster. But he was healthy enough to play in the 49ers' preseason finale on Sunday -- a 34-10 win over the Las Vegas Raiders -- and it could go a long way in determining if he's on the roster after cuts are made over the next couple of days.

Hurd caught four passes for 25 yards on six targets against the Raiders along with one carry for two yards. He also had a couple of drops, but none of those numbers are as important as the fact he was able to get a full game under his belt. Shanahan told reporters earlier in the week that Hurd is one of the team's top six receivers when healthy, so Sunday's game could be enough to solidify his status.

Shanahan's assessment of Hurd's performance on Sunday was positive.

"I was glad that he could get out there and get through it," Shanahan said. "He hasn't been able to practice as much and I think he got about 25 plays today too. I know some plays he'd like to have back -- a couple drops there it looked like. But I would really consider it a success. It was his first time playing in a couple years in a game. He's had a long road to get back and get to that point. I think it was a big day for him getting through it."

League rules state that the 49ers must have their initial 53-man roster finalized by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The wide receiver position looms large as one of the tougher positions to cut, with Hurd's injury history making the decision even more difficult. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are locks to get two of what is expected to be six receiver spots, with Trent Sherfield widely expected to get one as well after a strong showing over the course of training camp and the preseason. Hurd, Mohamed Sanu, Travis Benjamin, Nsimba Webster, Jauan Jennings, and River Cracraft are competing for the rest of the spots.

Shanahan compared Hurd's situation to that of veteran safety Jaquiski Tartt, who also made his preseason debut on Sunday after dealing with injury issues. The health statuses of both players have made things more complicated at their positions, but what happened for each of them on Sunday was what Shanahan wanted to see.

"It's tough. We know we've got some good players there," Shanahan said. "You're always trying to tell the future. You don't want to keep good players and get rid of some other players that you know can help you if you're going to hope you have those guys back in a couple weeks. It's always a challenge when guys aren't able to practice as much because of the injuries that they've had. That's why they stayed out there a little bit longer today. We had to give them some time to get healthy where they had a chance to do that. At least from what I've been told so far it was a success with both of them."

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