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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Kittleā€™s reduced involvement; Williams still limping; Wilks on Gipson penalty

Oct 20, 2023 at 5:36 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers have gotten through two practices this week, with one remaining before the team travels to Minneapolis for Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Here are some key storylines coming out of Santa Clara on Thursday.

Star players sit out again

Running back Christian McCaffrey (oblique), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (shoulder), and tackle Trent Williams (ankle) missed their second consecutive practice. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan refrained from ruling out any of his ailing star players for Monday's game.

"None of them could practice today because of their injuries," Shanahan said during his weekly radio interview. "We're not ruling them out for this week. When we say day-to-day, that means we're waiting each day to see how they come in the next morning because they don't have stuff to where they for sure can't play. They have chances to recover here."

You can read more about Shanahan's comments below.

RELATED Kyle Shanahan keeps door open for McCaffrey, Samuel, Williams for 49ers vs. Vikings

Williams still limping

Williams suffered his ankle injury during the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns. After the game, Williams was seen with his foot in a protective boot, walking with a noticeable limp.

On Friday, Matt Barrows of The Athletic saw Williams without the protective boot, but the offensive lineman was still moving with a limp. Jaylon Moore will be the next man up if Williams cannot play against the Vikings.

"The good thing for Jaylon is he has had a lot of work when Trent had his vet days during camp and doesn't play in the preseason," offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster told reporters. "So, Jaylon does get to play. You do get to see if he's progressed, and we think Jaylon has progressed.

"I mean, you've heard me say it in here a lot, that you don't know until you play in the games exactly how far, but he has improved on some things. It's been good to watch him do that, and hope that if he does get pressed into duty again on Monday night, then we'll be able to see some improvement."

Kittle's reduced involvement

George Kittle's involvement in the passing game has been limited this season, with only one game surpassing three receptions. He's currently on track for 612 receiving yards, which would mark his lowest total since his rookie year in 2017.

Quarterback Brock Purdy was asked why his tight end's involvement in the passing game has been limited this season.

"I think just the scheme of things, just how we've drawn things up," Purdy told reporters after Friday's practice. "That's how really the games have gone, where other guys have popped open and stuff, and George has had to help out with protection. And he's done such a good job of doing that role, being in protection, checking out on the flat and stuff like that. And then, when his opportunities come, we take advantage of it.

"But, man, that's just sort of just how it's gone so far. We still have a whole, basically, second half of the season coming up where George can definitely get involved. He can get involved at any point in the game. So that's just sort of how it's gone. It's not like we go into the game going, George, you're not going to get the ball. It's going to be this, this, and this guy. It's just how it's gone.

"But obviously, he's a threat. Everyone does like to scheme him up and try to stop George as best as possible. But it's just how it's been."

Kittle also addressed his reduced production this season, with a reporter noting that the tight end has a single catch in two of the last three games.

"Game plan," Kittle shared. "We've gone against a lot of really good defensive lines, and we're trying to do our best to not let something happen, like [Steelers pass rusher] T.J. Watt getting three sacks against us (as he did in Week 1). And if my catches diminish to help the team win, I don't really care.

"My goal is to win Super Bowl. Accolades and all that stuff come after that. It is what it is, and I'm going to be out there, I'm going to be chipping, I'm going to be blocking, I'm going to be catching the ball, scoring touchdowns. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it.

"Would I prefer to have five targets over one target? Sure. Any tight end would. But if that's not in the game plan, it's not in the game plan, and it's all right."

Wilks assesses Gregory

Newly acquired pass rusher Randy Gregory made an impression on Sunday against the Browns. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks praised Gregory's performance but noted room for improvement as he continues to acclimate to the team.

"Short period of time, just coming in, trying to learn the defense, and really, the culture and how we operate," Wilks told reporters. "I thought he did a pretty good job. He pressured the quarterback, [got a tackle for a loss], got a sack, so that was phenomenal.

"I wish we had a pressure on. He came a little too wide one time, and I think he had a strip sack fumble. So just cleaning that up and letting him understand a little bit more details of the defense, which I think he has this week, I think he's going to continue to progress."

Reaction to Gipson penalty

Safety Tashaun Gipson's penalty following a tackle on Browns wide receiver Elijah Moore sparked debate. Further review revealed that the 49ers defender made a textbook tackle on Moore, but the play was not reviewable.

The penalty kept the Browns' drive alive, leading to the home team taking a late lead. It ended up being a game-changing call.

What did the defensive coordinator have to say about the penalty?

"I can't say that right now," Wilks quipped. "But no, in all seriousness right here, I know the league is definitely all about the safety of players, and so are we, and we teach our guys how to lower their target. And personally, I thought it was clean. They called the flag. That's part of the game."

Wilks noted, "We had several times after that, defensively, to finish the game, and we didn't."

While the 49ers hoped for a different outcome, Wilks reiterated his confidence in Gipson's efforts to make a clean hit, adding, "I don't want to say human error, but humans are trying to determine whether or not it's a foul or a good hit, and they call the flag on it, and we got to live with it."

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