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Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan regrets one IR move, in favor of playoff teams being allowed additional activation

Dec 27, 2022 at 9:03 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are looking to sign linebacker Curtis Robinson to their practice squad, a move that could be finalized as early as today.

"Yeah, I think we're trying to do that as we speak," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters during a conference call on Monday.

The team released Robinson on December 23, which coincided with activating defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw from the injured reserve list.

San Francisco initially signed Robinson to its practice squad on December 6, 2021, and signed the linebacker to a reserve/future contract on February 2. The 49ers placed Robinson on the injured reserve list on August 31 due to an ankle injury and used one of their eight injured reserve activations on the linebacker on October 15, a move that the team might now regret.

At the time, Robinson was only the second player activated from the injured reserve list. Teams are allowed to do so up to eight times a season. The 49ers have since activated five more players, including Kinlaw, bringing their total to seven and leaving them with only one similar move to make.

What was the thinking early on to use one of the spots on Robinson?

"Where we were on special teams at the time and how big of a player we thought he could be for us on special teams," Shanahan responded. "And so, we were excited to get him back and do that. You know hindsight's 20/20. Obviously, nothing against him on that, but those are the risks you take when you're trying to get guys back and trying to have guys up.

"We had a number of guys down at one time, so we put a number of guys on IR so we could fill the roster, and those are the gambles you have to take, and we ended up becoming one short on it at the end of the year."

The five other players activated off the injured reserve list this season are defensive back Jimmy Ward (October 8), running back Elijah Mitchell (November 12), defensive end Jordan Willis (November 12), linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (November 12), and offensive lineman Colton McKivitz (November 12). Mitchell has since returned to the injured reserve list after sustaining a second MCL sprain.

The 49ers coach stated he would be in favor of a rule change allowing playoff teams an additional activation from the injured reserve list.

"You don't know how long it's going to last, and sometimes you need all those spots," Shanahan explained. "In the NFL, every single game matters, and then all of a sudden you can get three-to-four more games added at the end of the year, and that's a long time."

The 49ers placed defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway on injured reserve. While his timeline to recover from a pectoral injury is similar to that of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo—deep in the playoffs—the defensive player is not expected to return. Garoppolo was never placed on injured reserve.

"When we looked into the Ridgeway stuff, the odds were we wouldn't be able to have him until possibly a championship, possibly a Super Bowl-type game, so that's why we ended up having to go with that," Shanahan said of the decision not to carry Ridgeway on the active roster as he recovers. "But yeah, it'd be great to get some of those guys back because when you add four games to a season, that's a huge difference."

The team will likely use its final activation on running back Elijah Mitchell, potentially opening his practice window as early as next week.

"Yeah, there's a chance," Shanahan said of Mitchell. "I don't think this week. I think the earliest is possibly Friday, maybe. I think that's what they told me. He is healing up. He's had no setbacks. He's doing well, so we'll see if he's available next week for us."

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