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Should the 49ers play WR Brandon Aiyuk in Week 3?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 20, 2023 at 4:31 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are getting prepared for their home opener on Thursday Night Football against the New York Giants, who will be without a number of key players, including star running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas.

Meanwhile, the 49ers are entering the game relatively healthy, save for one tough, game-time decision to make with WR Brandon Aiyuk, who is currently nursing a shoulder injury that he sustained during his first catch last week.

Aiyuk has been listed as limited on both Monday and Tuesday, earning him a questionable designation heading into the Thursday Night matchup, and a resolution likely comes only 90 minutes before game time.

Should the 49ers play Aiyuk in Week 3, given the injury?

49ers side

Speaking on Aiyuk's injury Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan was noncommittal on the wideout's status for Thursday, but pointed out that he's trending enough in the right direction to be designated as limited in practice, rather than a "DNP".

The head coach shared that Aiyuk's pregame workout will likely indicate his status for Thursday, as reports have suggested that it is more of a "pain tolerance" issue.

Looking at the injury from an organizational perspective, I believe it would be in the 49ers' best interests to sit Aiyuk during Week 3.

Not only are the 49ers facing a short turnaround, but they're going up against a short-handed Giants team that will be without their starting left side of the offensive line, as well as their heartbeat in running back Saquon Barkley.

Aiyuk is an extremely valuable asset, and making the injury worse could have much bigger implications down the line.

The 49ers' first true test comes in Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys and they'll need their entire team healthy for a tough battle that could potentially determine the No. 1 seed down the line if the season goes according to projections.

With a longer period of recovery following the Thursday Night game, the 49ers will have plenty of time to let Aiyuk rest his shoulder and be prepared in Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals.

But, point blank, the 49ers shouldn't need Aiyuk to win against a beaten-up New York Giants team, and should prioritize his long-term health, rather than make the situation worse in Week 3.

Aiyuk's side

Now, there are other factors at play here that also have long-term implications: Aiyuk's contract negotiations at the end of the season.

Aiyuk's contract negotiations will undoubtedly be based on his 2022 season, and his missing games decreases his chances of opportunity, and furthermore, the potential scope of his next contract.

Additionally, Aiyuk himself likely will push hard to play on Thursday, as he has been very durable throughout his career, having played in every game over the last two seasons.

There certainly is an argument that it's in Aiyuk's best interests financially to play, but the 49ers should push against that idea, prioritizing his health, especially as he seemed to grimace that shoulder at times during last week's game after the injury.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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