The San Francisco 49ers had a fairly auspicious start to their preseason schedule on Friday, as they defeated the Green Bay Packers, 28-21.
But injuries are a part of the NFL, especially during the preseason, when players aren’t quite in top shape yet, and the 49ers are no exception to that rule.
The team is currently dealing with injuries to two of its key contributors, and it could impact what happens the rest of the preseason and even its plans for Week 1 of the regular season.
Jimmie Ward has been San Francisco’s starting free safety for the past several seasons, and while he hasn’t made the Pro Bowl in his eight pro seasons, he is an important part of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s defense.
On Monday, he suffered a hamstring injury during a team practice, and it wasn’t a minor strain.
It is significant enough to keep him out of the rest of preseason, and he may even miss the regular season opener versus the Chicago Bears.
There's a chance Jimmie Ward will miss the 49ers' season opener on Sept. 11.
"It's a pretty bad hamstring injury," Shanahan said https://t.co/PGkjaS014H
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) August 15, 2022
This could be something of a blow to the Niners’ Super Bowl hopes, depending on how long he is out, especially since hamstring injuries can be tricky to predict.
Ward has gradually improved over the years, and he was just named to the NFL’s Top 100 list for the first time.
49ers: Well deserved and long overdue.
Jimmie Ward makes his #NFLTop100 list debut 👏
— Wellman Shew (@WellmanShew) August 15, 2022
Ward isn’t the only player on the defensive unit who is dealing with a hamstring ailment, as cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and Charvarius Ward are also dealing with bad hamstrings.
We haven’t even reached Week 2 of the preseason and 3/4 of the #49ers starting secondary is hurt. First Charvarius Ward, then Emmanuel Moseley, and now Jimmie Ward. Brutal start to the year.
— Rob “Stats” Guerrera (@StatsOnFire) August 15, 2022
The 49ers secondary was tabbed as something that needed improvement after last season ended, but now it is looking very thin.
They’ve always been a team that has won with defense, going back to nearly a decade ago when Colin Kaepernick was under center and Patrick Willis was leading things on the other side of the football, but they must get healthy in order to get off to a good start this year.
Along with a hard-nosed defense, the other part of the Niners’ winning formula in recent years has been their running game.
Last season, rookie Elijah Mitchell emerged as their RB1, as he posted 963 yards and five touchdowns despite missing six games because of multiple injuries.
With Lance only starting to get his feet wet as a full-time QB1, Shanahan is expected to continue to lean on the running game, at least until Lance becomes comfortable and reliable with making successful passes beyond 10-15 yards.
But Mitchell, just like several others, has a bad hamstring.
The good news is that he is expected to be ready for Week 1.
49ers’ RB Elijah Mitchell is nursing a hamstring injury that likely will prevent him from playing in the preseason, per league source. Mitchell is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 13, 2022
Of course, Lance will also help, as he is quite capable of gaining yardage himself with his legs.