Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

‘It’s a big concern this year’: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan discusses Javon Kinlaw’s injury, development setback

Oct 20, 2021 at 2:16 PM--

Some fans are a bit too quick to write off defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, feeling that he is yet another first-round misstep by the San Francisco 49ers. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan still believes in him and feels the defender's injury setbacks can still be overcome.

Kinlaw entered the draft as a raw but physically gifted prospect that could develop into a force along the defensive line. That development has been stalled as the 49ers do what they can to manage the second-year player's injury.

Kinlaw sustained a knee injury on December 20, 2020, against the Dallas Cowboys, forcing him to miss the season's final two games. He underwent a procedure after the 2020 season and then had what was described as a minor procedure to reduce swelling in the knee later in the offseason. That limited Kinlaw during training camp.

"There was cleanup stuff," Shanahan told reporters before today's practice. "I know he had a setback on a couple of things. As you know with me, I don't know the exact history of it, especially going back the whole year. But I knew getting calls on vacation, like, 'Hey, he had a little setback here. It didn't heal right. So we've got to go back into it,' and a couple of things like that."

Shanahan doesn't hold anything against Kinlaw. The 49ers didn't anticipate the complications bleeding into the 2021 season.

"It's a big concern this year, and it's nothing against him, but it's been unfortunate with him," Shanahan said. "So his development, right now, is on hold. I was real excited with how he started to end last year. You know, those last few games, especially at Dallas. I thought it was one of his best ones. The Rams game, I think a couple of weeks before. I'm not sure how many. But I thought he was starting to turn into that player.

"He had a bad injury at the end that we thought would heal up fast, and it's affected him all through this year. So, that's the setback now, and that's why he's behind the eight ball this year. But I don't think his story is totally finished being written yet."

Kinlaw had to adapt to managing his injury, which could explain why he doesn't look like the same player as last year. The defensive tackle has been limited, even in games, to ensure he doesn't put himself at further risk, and hopefully, increasing his chances of getting close to 100 percent.

"The whole year has been managing it," Shanahan said. "That's why I know he's been frustrated, because no one's upset with Kinlaw right now. It's been unfortunate with what happened and the setbacks with some of the surgeries and stuff. And when you think it's right, that it hasn't been [right] out there on the field, so we've had to really manage him throughout training camp, throughout the season, hoping that would get it better. It just hasn't, so far."

Shanahan hopes the 49ers' management plan will allow Kinlaw to recover, put the injury behind him, and focus on improving.

"It's extremely difficult," Shanahan admitted. "That's why we've got to get his knee better, so he has a chance to develop and turn into the player we know he is."

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