Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, DC DeMeco Ryans assess DBs’ COVID situation, Emmanuel Moseley’s progress

Jan 6, 2022 at 6:38 PM--

The 49ers still don't know for sure if COVID-19 will leave their defensive backfield decimated against the Los Angeles Rams this weekend, but they're preparing for every scenario in case it does.

And thankfully it sounds like they've got a key reinforcement on the way just when they need him the most.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans dove into the DB situation in depth on Thursday, with Ryans talking about the issue after practice with reporters and Shanahan speaking about it during an appearance on KNBR's Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks Podcast. The defensive backs who are currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list (Jimmie Ward, K'Waun Williams, Ambry Thomas, Dontae Johnson, Deommodore Lenoir) all have a chance to be cleared by game time, but if not, the 49ers could be looking at a patchwork secondary of sorts in Los Angeles on Sunday.

"We'll play some guys you guys probably don't know yet (if the others aren't cleared)," Shanahan said. "We've got a few on practice squad. Some teams have been in that situation this year, and it's rough. Fortunately we haven't been yet this year. It's tough that we've got a chance to be like that this week. But also the good thing is since they've changed the protocols, these guys got it pretty early. They all got it on Monday, so I'm just really hoping with this five day rule that they have no symptoms on Friday night and are allowed to come back on Saturday. It'll be tough; them missing a whole week of practice is a big deal. But as long as they can play, we're going to need them."

One notable new face the 49ers brought in to help remedy the situation is veteran Darqueze Dennard, a former first-round pick of the Bengals who was added to the practice squad earlier in the week. While Dennard has plenty of experience, Shanahan is hoping he doesn't need to give playing time to Dennard or any other defensive backs who haven't been with the team throughout the season.

"There are some guys who just got here this week, so the first time I saw them was yesterday," Shanahan said. "But I'll know them pretty good by Sunday. Hopefully I don't have to. Not anything against them, I'm just hoping we get our guys back that have been here the whole year."

Fortunately the 49ers appear ready to welcome back Emmanuel Moseley, who has been on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. Moseley's window to return from IR opened this week, and it sounds like the 49ers might be able to rely on him Sunday.

"Today was the first time he got to do some full-speed stuff," Shanahan said of Moseley. "Looked good out there. Him and Josh (Norman), they're the only guys out there who don't have COVID that are normal starters. So everyone else isn't out there. So it's been good work for him to not have to split it with anybody. We'll see where these other guys are at hopefully Saturday when hopefully they're allowed to come back into the building and we get to find out about their conditioning and stuff and where they're at. Thank goodness Moseley's available this week so we have another option."

In the meantime, the 49ers have been keeping the defensive backs on the COVID list in the loop. Not being with the team for practice isn't ideal, as Shanahan said, but Ryans has confidence they won't miss a beat if they're cleared to play.

"The best part about it is we've had all our meetings virtual," Ryans said. "So all those guys have been in the meetings. They understand the game plan. So our guys, they've been locked in mentally. The guys who are on that list, they've played a lot of ball for us, so they understand our scheme, what we're trying to do defensively. Those guys, we'll be grateful to have them back as soon as we can get them back, but I think there won't be any mental hurdles for our guys. They'll be able to plug right back in and get out there and help us."

Meanwhile, Ryans is hoping those players are able to find a way to get some workouts in, although he's more concerned about their well-being than anything.

"I think it all depends on how those guys are feeling. If they're feeling well enough to get a workout in wherever they can, that would definitely be beneficial for them to help us on Sunday," Ryans said. "The biggest thing and most important thing for me is just making sure those guys are okay health-wise. That's the biggest thing. The game is the game; it'll take care of itself. But the biggest thing for me is making sure those guys are feeling good."

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