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Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

Why Baldy is concerned about 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey’s playing time

Nov 14, 2023 at 2:42 PM--

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Christian McCaffrey has already logged 458 snaps this season. He is on pace for 360 touches during the regular season, which would mark his highest total since 2019. That year, he touched the football 403 times, accumulating an impressive 2,392 total yards. However, the workload may have taken a toll on the running back.

"Well, if you just said 20 carries a game, I mean, the 49ers want to play 20 games this year. That's 400 touches," analyst Brian Baldinger said on 95.7 The Game's "The Morning Roast" show. "He did that once in Carolina, and he was on the shelf for the next two years—on and off the shelf. It's just too much."

McCaffrey played just 10 games in the two seasons that followed that impressive 2019 campaign before the Carolina Panthers traded him to the 49ers in 2022.

Given the running back position's punishing nature, Baldinger is concerned about McCaffrey's longevity in the NFL.

"You look at the wear and tear that those guys take and the way that he runs between the tackles, I just think you better get, whether it's [Elijah] Mitchell or [Jordan] Mason or somebody, touches, and get them some rhythm. I think you got to preserve him to a degree, especially if it's a runaway game. You gotta find ways to get them off the field."

Despite the 49ers holding a commanding 31-point lead, head coach Kyle Shanahan kept McCaffrey on the field late in Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The running back aimed to break the record for the most consecutive games with at least one touchdown but narrowly fell short.

An injury to McCaffrey with the win well in hand would have been disastrous, but the running back appreciated his team's effort to get him into the record books.

"It means a lot to me for them to keep me in at the end of the game there and try to give me that record," McCaffrey said after the game. "But, hey, I'll take a huge win."

McCaffrey may be the offense's most dynamic playmaker, so Baldinger understands the desire to keep him on the football field. It's challenging to sideline such an impressive player, especially considering the drop-off from McCaffrey to the 49ers' other running backs.

Still, the extensive playing time is concerning, with Baldinger noting, "He might be able to go 400 carries and be fine and get to the offseason, but not many backs can do it, and I've tracked it. I mean, I don't care if your name was Shaun Alexander or Deuce McAllister; every single back that went 400 touches literally was washed up the next year."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Baldinger below.

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