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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Christian McCaffrey, Arik Armstead eager for ‘chess match’ vs. Dolphins

Dec 1, 2022 at 10:23 PM--

There was some concern among the San Francisco 49ers fanbase when they saw the team's star running back, acquired via a trade in October, standing on the sideline against the New Orleans Saints, testing his knee, seeing if he could get back onto the football field.

The 49ers had already lost second-year running back Elijah Mitchell in the game. Later, we would learn that injury was worse than the team had hoped. For the second time this season, Mitchell suffered an MCL sprain and would need to miss six to eight weeks.

McCaffrey did not practice on Wednesday. However, he returned to the practice field on Thursday. So there is little doubt in his mind that when Sunday arrives, he'll be on the football field with his teammates, ready to face the red-hot Miami Dolphins.

"I feel great," McCaffrey told reporters on Thursday after being asked if he had any concerns about his availability this weekend.

The setback appears to have been a minor speed bump, and sitting out Wednesday's practice was just a precaution.

"I had some knee irritation," McCaffrey explained. "That was pretty much it. Just making sure I was checking all the boxes, making sure everything was good. Luckily, I dodged a bullet, was able to go back out there."

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers will likely get back one of their defensive leaders—Arik Armstead. The defensive lineman spoke confidently about his chances of playing for the first time since October 3.

"I'll be out there," Armstead told reporters while standing in front of his locker after Thursday's practice.

He's been sidelined due to foot and ankle injuries. So it's been a long road back for the defensive lineman.

"I feel great, able to play," Armstead said. "Like I said, it's time to get back out there and take the field again."

While the 49ers have won four straight games, Sunday's matchup will be no easy task. The Dolphins haven't lost since October 16. They've scored 30 or more points in each of their last four games. Miami owns the No. 3 offense in the NFL.

"It's going to be a fun game, [going against a] high-powered offense," Armstead said. "A lot of eyes are going to be on this game too. Top teams in the league, so it's definitely going to be a lot of fun playing in this one."

By the way, Armstead rejoins a 49ers defense that ranks No. 1 in the league. It's an incredible opportunity for the top-ranked unit to get even better and prove that they deserve to be in the conversation when discussing Super Bowl contenders.

There is a lot of familiarities as the two teams prepare to square off. When the 49ers look to the visitor's sideline, they'll see former teammates in running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. Wide receivers Trent Sherfield and River Cracraft also spent time in Santa Clara.

The Dolphins run a similar offense as the 49ers. That's because their head coach, Mike McDaniel, served as San Francisco's offensive coordinator last season. McDaniel will face his mentor, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, for the first time.

Does the familiarity help at all?

"I think it helps," Armstead said. "You've seen those looks before, but also, they know you too. And so I'm sure they'll have some stuff schemed up for our front and for what we do. McDaniel knows us very well too, so it will be a little bit of a chess match early on, and then, mid-way through the game, it's just going to be football."

McCaffrey didn't have an opportunity to work with McDaniel, having joined the 49ers this season. However, he's seen enough this week to know what he'll be going up against.

"There's a lot of challenges," McCaffrey said. "They're well-coached. Obviously, they run to the ball well, have a great [pass] rush. Like every week, there's a lot of challenges, but it will always be about us and being able to execute the game plan."


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