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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Javon Kinlaw explains his health status; Jimmy G on George Kittle; Trey Lance to avoid travel

Oct 6, 2022 at 8:41 PM--

The 49ers are hours away from hopping on a plane to begin a long stay out east, but first there's some business to attend to in Santa Clara as they wrap up practices and speak with reporters before the start of their trip.

Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Chris Foerster and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo held their weekly press conferences after Thursday's practice, while multiple players spoke with reporters in the locker room. Here's a rundown of some of the key issues that were discussed during Thursday's media sessions.

The Greenbrier Effect

The 49ers have made a habit in recent seasons of making an extended road trip out of consecutive East Coast dates by choosing to stay somewhere in the east instead of traveling back to California between games. They'll be doing it again next week when they stay at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia in between games against the Carolina Panthers on October 9 and the Atlanta Falcons on October 16.

The Greenbrier, a rather fancy and pricey five-star resort, has played host to the 49ers on multiple occasions during East Coast trips, while the 49ers also once stayed in Youngstown, which is the home area of the 49ers owning family, the Yorks. Regardless of location, the decision to stay out east has worked, with the 49ers going 7-1 in games where they've made an extended stay instead of flying home.

Being away from the Bay Area can be a challenge for some players, but it can also result in a level of increased camaraderie that wouldn't take place at home.

"It's tough on guys with families and things like that, I know," Garoppolo said. "But I don't know, there's a part of me that enjoys it. You get to spend time with guys, see a different side of guys that you don't usually get to see. Guys start to open up a little bit when they're away like that. It'll be a good opportunity for us to take advantage of that, have some fun dinners together, and just get out and see a different side of guys."

The 49ers will likely be favored in both of their road games on this trip, so they'll have a good opportunity to continue their Greenbrier-aided success. Also helping is the fact the York family is willing to pay for an extra night on the road before the first game, giving the 49ers another edge.

"It tremendously helps us," Garoppolo said. "Getting there Friday night rather than Saturday night and having to wake up and just go, go, go -- credit to the Yorks for that because I know that stuff ain't cheap. They give us top class, first-class everything, and we appreciate it. 7-1, it pays off."

No flying for Trey

One notable player who won't be on this trip out east is quarterback Trey Lance, who continues to nurse a season-ending ankle injury. Lance's injury will prevent him from flying and taking part in any of what goes on at The Greenbrier, although he'll be checking in with the quarterbacks from afar.

"Trey Lance said he won't travel with the team to the East Coast because they don't want him and his surgically repaired ankle on a plane that long," tweeted Matt Barrows of The Athletic. "He'll take part in meetings via Zoom."

Part of the plan for Kinlaw

Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw has been out of action over the past few days, but it doesn't sound like anything of major concern for the former first-round draft pick.

Kinlaw was sidelined for last Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams and missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Thursday he explained why.

"Javon Kinlaw says his knee isn't in pain and that his current time away — he missed Rams game and first 2 practices of this week — is all part of the longer recovery process from his ACL surgery," tweeted David Lombardi of The Athletic. "Lot of fluid buildup in the knee. Sounds like he'll be back sooner rather than later."

Kinlaw would certainly prefer to be on the field after spending most of 2021 out due to his knee injury, but Ryans said it's a case of better safe than sorry.

"It's always about the player first to me," Ryans said. "It's not about pushing guys out when they're not ready to go because I care too much about the men and not just the player, so that's what it's all about to me. So whenever a player is ready and his body is ready and he's able to be out there and play for us, that's the right time for him to be out there."

Kittle will rise again

There's been plenty of talk over the past few days about tight end George Kittle, who is off to a slow start after missing the first two games of the season with a groin injury. Kittle has six catches for 52 yards on the season, with just two of those coming in the 49ers' recent win over the Los Angeles Rams.

But Kittle's stats and targets will likely increase in the weeks ahead. Garoppolo thinks Kittle is making progress in rebounding from his injury and will have his time to shine soon.

"I think just George coming back from injury and everything, getting his legs under him, he's looked better and better every day," Garoppolo said. "The time will come. Our offense is one of those offenses where not everyone's going to have a good game every week. Pick your poison one week and one guy will have a good game the next week. It's kind of just one of those situations."

Wait and see

The defense many have said is the best in the NFL got even better and deeper this week with the returns of safety Jimmie Ward and cornerback Jason Verrett to practice after missing the first portion of the season while healing from injuries. But the secondary has been playing so well that neither player might be needed right away.

The 49ers have the luxury of easing both players back into the swing of things, but chances are they'll need them sooner or later. Where will Ward and Verrett fit in when they're ready? Time will tell.

"It's been a long time since those guys have played football so it's just a matter of getting them back integrated into things," Ryans said. "It's one thing to be in the meeting rooms but to get back out on the grass and do things, we'll just see where those guys are as they continue to go along. But first things foremost, we're just excited to have them out. As they progress, we'll see where they fit in when that time comes for us."

A needed step forward at left tackle

The left tackle position remains a question mark for the 49ers with Trent Williams healing from an ankle sprain, but fortunately one of his replacements took a step up in the win over the Rams.

Second-year lineman Jaylon Moore was first off the bench at left tackle after Williams was hurt in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos, but he struggled and was replaced with Colton McKivitz. Then McKivitz (knee) got hurt against the Rams, which resulted in Moore getting back in the lineup. Moore played better against the Rams and will need to continue to deliver until Williams is healthy.

"I think that was a good wake-up call for him in Denver," Foerster said. "I think he's worked really hard and progressed. But just when he got out there it just all wasn't there. That Denver game unfortunately for us he didn't play real well and got our quarterback hit a couple times, and whatever happened, happened. But I think that was as a good shook him up a little bit. He refocused last week. It's one game; he's got to start stringing some together for us now. We need him."

Backing up Moore if necessary will be Blake Hance, who was added to the roster via waivers on August 31.

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