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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Nick Sorensen excited for Talanoa Hufanga’s eventual return

May 13, 2024 at 3:06 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers' defense suffered a devastating blow in November when safety Talanoa Hufanga went down with a season-ending ACL injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rookie Ji'Ayir Brown filled in for the injured All-Pro, whose absence was felt among his teammates.

All signs point toward Hufanga's recovery being on schedule, with the safety even eyeing a potential return some time during training camp.

"It's always scary coming back from an ACL, but once you come back, in this day and age, it's usually okay," head coach Kyle Shanahan said in March. "[We] expect to get him some time in training camp, so that should be all right."

Last week, Nick Sorensen spoke to the media for the first time since being named the team's defensive coordinator. He has been keeping an eye on his recovering safety and is excited to get his talented defender back on the football field.

"The main thing with him is he's got experience, and he's a heck of a player," Sorensen told reporters. "I mean, he's really, really good at communicating. He's smart, he sees things, has a full understanding of our system, and when he gets back, we're going to be excited."

Before his injury last season, Hufanga earned career-high run defense (77.1) and tackling (79.1) grades from Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks owned a passer rating of 72.9 throwing in his direction. Hufanga's defensive grade of 72.1 and 74.6 coverage grade in 2022 were career highs, earning him Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors that season.

Hufanga is eager to rejoin his teammates.

"I know he's excited," Sorensen said. "He was out there on the field the other day -- we're in phase two (of offseason workouts) right now, so we're on the field doing a little bit of work with our players. And just talking to him, he's excited. So when he's ready, he'll be ready, and we'll be excited to have him back."

In addition to Hufanga and Brown, San Francisco's safety group now includes rookie and fourth-round draft pick Malik Mustapha. Last season's other starter, Tashaun Gipson, remains a free agent.
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