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49ers Notebook: McCaffrey says “I feel great”; Impact on Mason, Mitchell; Shanahan finds positive in loss to Browns; Greenlaw praised

Oct 21, 2023 at 4:20 PM--


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The biggest development coming out of Santa Clara on Saturday revolves around San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel. A recent CT scan revealed a hairline fracture in his shoulder, which will force him to miss at least the next two games. However, the team is optimistic that their versatile wideout will return after the bye week for the 49ers' Week 10 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

RELATED Deebo Samuel to miss 2 games with hairline fracture

Below are some of Saturday's other notable storylines heading into a crucial Monday night showdown against the Minnesota Vikings.

McCaffrey feels great


As the 49ers gear up to face the Vikings, all eyes are on star running back Christian McCaffrey. After suffering an oblique injury in last weekend's game against the Cleveland Browns, the league-leading rusher has been on the road to recovery.

McCaffrey, who has accumulated 553 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 110 carries this season, along with 23 receptions for 177 yards and two receiving touchdowns, is one of the 49ers' most dynamic playmakers. The team considers itself fortunate that McCaffrey didn't suffer a more severe injury, avoiding any broken ribs.

While McCaffrey has been determined to suit up for Monday night's game, the 49ers wisely held the star running back out of this week's first two practices. However, he returned to the practice field on Saturday, albeit as a limited participant. The weekend session was the final on-field work before the team travels to Minneapolis for Monday's game.

San Francisco has officially listed McCaffrey as "questionable" for the Week 7 bout. After Saturday's practice, when asked about his condition, the running back declared, "I feel great."

One thing is clear: McCaffrey is determined to do everything possible to suit up and be on the field with his teammates in Minnesota.

"That's a huge deal," the running back said. "Yeah, it's what you signed up to do, so if you can go, you've got to go."

McCaffrey brushed aside concerns about aggravating his oblique injury during a game and reiterated, "I feel great," when asked about the possibility.

Am I confident McCaffrey will be in uniform on Monday night despite being listed as "questionable"? Without a doubt, he'll put in every effort to be on the field, even if it means he's pacing himself, giving room for others to contribute.



McCaffrey's impact on Mason, Mitchell


The 49ers will likely be cautious with their best offensive playmaker. If McCaffrey cannot take the field or requires limited snaps, running backs Jordan Mason and Elijah Mitchell will be ready to step in.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan expressed confidence in Mason and Mitchell, and when asked by NBC Sports Bay Area if there is any difference in the running styles of the two players, he responded, "Not really. I mean, they both run extremely hard. They're both very violent. I think they're very similar, even Christian, who looks a little bit different in how he does it."

Shanahan added, "But when all three of those guys are there, whichever one it is. The yards that they get are very similar. They're all good at hitting the right hole. They're all good at breaking tackles. And when it comes to run play, we've got a pretty good situation with those guys."

Shanahan acknowledges that McCaffrey has been a positive influence on Mason and Mitchell. While McCaffrey has proven himself among the NFL's best running backs, he is also a superb receiver, capable of lining up in the slot, outside, or running a route out of the backfield. During training camp, the 49ers coach noticed Mason and Mitchell make strides in that area.

"I mean, being able to watch a guy who's so good at it always helps," Shanahan explained. "And when someone is that good at it, we're practicing it a lot more. And we don't just practice it with the ones. ... And that's kind of the hard thing with Christian because he's such a good running back. But when he's on the field, he affects the defense so much because of how big of a threat he is in every pass and play, and he's going to come out [of the game] some.

"And the key is for those other guys to make us feel comfortable enough that they could still do it where we don't have to change the play. And those guys earned that really over this offseason, really working at it, working at their hands, working at their routes to where, if Christian is out, and it was something specifically for Christian, it's still a possibility with either of those guys."



Finding a silver lining in Week 6 loss


Quarterback Brock Purdy endured his first NFL regular-season loss last weekend against the Browns. It was the 23-year-old's worst outing as a pro, completing only 44.4 percent of his passes for 125 yards, one touchdown, and an interception, earning a career-low passer rating of 55.3.

Still, Shanahan commended Purdy's resilience and ability to rally the offense in the face of adversity. The quarterback orchestrated a late-game drive that put the 49ers in position to kick a potential game-winning field goal. Unfortunately, rookie Jake Moody's kick failed to connect, and San Francisco's 15-game regular-season winning streak came to an end.

"It wasn't his best game," Shanahan said of Purdy's performance. "I mean, it was his first loss, first [interception] of the year. There's a couple of throws that he missed, especially on that interception. But it was kind of like the rest of our whole team. He wasn't in the best situations. He had to make some huge plays just to get us out of some stuff, and we didn't really get all groups to do that and got caught with the ball a couple of times because of some of the pressure, some guys dropping under stuff. And it's kind of a perfect storm for him, especially with the ball that slipped on the screen, a couple of rain things."

The loss served as a wake-up call for the 49ers. Despite the quarterback's struggles for much of the game, his head coach saw some positives from the defeat in Cleveland.

"But what I was happy with is he stuck with it," Shanahan continued. "At the end, he didn't melt or anything. He got us in a position to win, and I thought he ended up playing, towards the end, good enough for us to win. And when everyone around him wasn't that great, I thought it was a good game for us all to kind of see, especially the coaching staff [and] the players.

"It's been a while since we've lost, and you kind of forgot how that felt. And to come in and have to go through it on a Monday and on a Tuesday, even throughout this week of practice, it's been good to deal with the guys and just see how different it is when you do come off a loss. You're pissed off. It's what happens when you lose, but we haven't had that for a while. The last time we lost (last season's NFC Championship Game), we got two months off, so we didn't see each other the whole next week.

"So it's been kind of neat to deal with them and to deal with the group, and everyone's locked in and ready to get this bad taste out of her mouth and get back to another game."

Shanahan praises Greenlaw


The 49ers defense faced the challenge of playing without Dre Greenlaw last weekend. The linebacker has been battling a hamstring injury and, like McCaffrey, is currently labeled as "questionable" for the upcoming Vikings matchup.

The coach was asked about the significance of Greenlaw's absence in the Week 6 loss.

"Dre is one of the best players, I think, in this league, so when he's not out there, it's huge," Shanahan said. "But I don't want it to sound like our linebackers who came in did bad. [Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles] and Oren [Burks], they came in there and played very well. Dre is just a little different of an animal.

"But those guys played a good game. Burks had one of the most impressive plays of the game when he stopped [WR] Amari [Cooper] on that long run, just being able to chase him down because not many people can do that. But hopefully, we get [Greenlaw] back this week, because he's a difference-maker out there."

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