San Francisco Chronicle
A familiar start: Crucial injuries hounding 49ers
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 49ers’ best cornerback is out for the season and their top running back will miss half the year.
Welcome to the 2021 season, which is starting similarly to last year’s injury-filled 6-10 disappointment.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday that cornerback Jason Verrett suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s seasonopening win at Detroit and running back Raheem Mostert suffered chipped knee cartilage that will require arthroscopic surgery and is expected to sideline him for eight weeks.
Shanahan was asked about guarding against here-we-go-again thinking: The 49ers led the NFL with 32 injured-reserve transactions last season and have ranked among the league’s top 10 in that category for the past four seasons.
“That’s part of football,” Shanahan said. “I’m not going to sit here and be therapist to everyone about it. I thought we got out of the game mostly healthy.”
Perhaps by the 49ers’ standards? Sunday’s attrition wasn’t quite on par with Week 2 of the 2020 season when defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas suffered torn ACLs and were among several players who were sidelined with significant injuries. A similarity between the two seasons: After last season’s Week 2 win against the Jets, the 49ers spent the week practicing at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where they will train this week before visiting the Eagles on Sunday.
The loss of Verrett, 30, is a gut punch, given his ability and the state of the rest of the position group. Even with Verrett available, the 49ers recognized they needed to bolster the spot, and they signed Josh Norman, 33, on Sept. 6 after on-andoff discussions with the nine-year veteran that spanned at least two months.
Shanahan said the 49ers would consider signing another free-agent corner. And shortly after Shanahan’s conference call with reporters, NFL Network reported the 49ers were finalizing a deal with Dre Kirkpatrick, 31, who worked out for the team in late July.
Kirkpatrick has 78 starts and 13 interceptions in his nine-year career. Last year the 2012 first-round pick made 11 starts with the Cardinals and had three interceptions and seven pass breakups. Quarterbacks had a 80.1 passer rating on the 94 passes on which he was targeted.
“I feel like we have enough (cornerbacks) in our building,” Shanahan said. “That’s something that we always have to look to see if (we) can improve.”
In the short term, there is the matter of who will be available for Sunday’s visit to Philadelphia. Starter Emmanuel Moseley (knee) missed the season opener after he failed to practice last week, and Shanahan said Monday that he’s “holding out hope” Moseley can play against the Eagles. If not, Deommodore Lenoir, who made his first career start against the Lions, and Norman could serve as the starters.
Without Mostert, rookie Elijah Mitchell will start Sunday and aim to build on his promising debut. After Mostert was injured on his second carry, Mitchell, a sixth-round pick, had 104 yards on 19 carries, scored on a 38-yard run and became the first player in franchise history to have a 100-yard rushing performance in his first game.
Mostert’s absence means rookie Trey Sermon will make his debut against the Eagles after he was a healthy scratch against Detroit. Shanahan said the third-round pick didn’t play against the Lions because he was behind Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty, a 2020 undrafted free agent, on the depth chart. The 49ers traded two fourth-round picks to the Rams (Nos. 117, 121) for the No. 88 selection they used on Sermon, who is their highest-drafted running back since 2014.
“I expect (Sermon) to come in and play at a high level and just keep getting better,” Shanahan said. “There’s a reason we drafted him and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
The 49ers likely will add a running back at least to the practice squad, which doesn’t have a player at that position group. Shanahan said they expect to have running back Jeff Wilson (knee), last year’s leading rusher, return around the midway point of the season.
Wilson suffered a torn meniscus in May when he stood up in the locker room and felt a pop in his knee, which, the 49ers hope, wasn’t the first sign their recent history could be repeating itself.