SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers don’t yet know whether they will have wide receiver Deebo Samuel for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. They do, however, know that there’s at least a chance Samuel will play against the Detroit Lions.
Given that Samuel missed two games and the bye week with a microfracture in his left shoulder earlier this season, the Niners got some relatively good news about the injury he suffered Saturday night against the Green Bay Packers.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday afternoon that imaging did not show another break in Samuel’s shoulder, which at least leaves the door open for him to return this week.
«It wasn’t broken, so that was a real good sign,» Shanahan said. «But it’s still hurting too much for us to really have an idea how he will heal up this week. So, we’ve just got to be patient, see how he feels on Wednesday, and based on if it’s improving it will give us a better idea whether he has a chance for the game or not.»
Samuel suffered the injury with 5:35 left in the opening quarter of Saturday’s NFC divisional round win. Samuel caught a pass from quarterback Brock Purdy over the middle and was battling for extra yards when multiple Packers converged on him.
After the play was blown dead, Samuel went down and let go of the ball as Niners medical staff surrounded him. He was initially evaluated for a concussion after a call from the spotters in the booth but was quickly cleared.
«It was the shoulder and only the shoulder, but I think it looked live like he possibly could have taken a hit in the head, so that was just people from upstairs,» Shanahan said.
Samuel briefly returned to the game before he jogged to San Francisco’s locker room. He returned to the sideline and did not reenter the game before another trip to the locker room at the two-minute warning.
The Niners ruled Samuel out at the beginning of the third quarter, and he watched the rest of the game from the sideline in street clothes.
After the Niners’ 24-21 win, Samuel told members of the organization he was «OK,» sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Earlier Monday, a source told Schefter that the Niners consider Samuel’s chances of playing against the Lions «50-50.»
According to Shanahan, it’s simply too early to tell, although the Niners have started game-planning for Detroit with both potential scenarios in mind.
«If we know he’s not available — which hopefully we would know that by Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, at least in those three days — then it makes it easier, at least from a game-plan standpoint; you don’t have to do much,» Shanahan said. «But if there’s any chance, which I think we’ll have a better idea by Wednesday, obviously there will be things in there for him.»
The Niners have undoubtedly been a better and more dangerous offense with Samuel than without him. In the regular season, they averaged 7.1 yards per play when he was on the field and 5.7 yards per play when he wasn’t. They also went 0-3 after Samuel injured the shoulder in the opening quarter of a Week 6 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
If Samuel can’t play, wideout Jauan Jennings is first in line for an increased role. Jennings had five catches for 61 yards, including four first downs, on six targets against the Packers.
«Jauan, he always contributes,» Shanahan said. «I think people see it more when he catches the ball, but Jauan has an impact whenever he’s out there on the field, whether it’s the run game or the pass game. He stepped it up big for us, one of the biggest warriors out on the field and love that he’s on our team.»