NOVEMBER 11: The 49ers will be the first team to push up against the NFL’s new IR activation ceiling. They plan to activate Mitchell, Al-Shaair, McKivitz and defensive end Jordan Willis from IR, Kyle Shanahan said Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (on Twitter).
With San Francisco having already used three of its injury activations — including one on Jason Verrett, who has since suffered another Achilles tear — the team will have one remaining beyond Week 10. Friday’s decision stands to affect how San Francisco manages its IR list going forward, as starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is also on IR. Kinlaw is slated to return at some point this season, Shanahan said (via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, on Twitter).
While the IR ramifications of Friday’s move will be interesting to monitor down the road, the team will have a host of key contributors back following its bye week.
NOVEMBER 7: Injuries and a rather notable trade defined the first half of the 49ers’ season, but the contending team will have some reinforcements available soon.
The 49ers designated running back Elijah Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and backup tackle Colton McKivitz for return from IR on Monday. Each member of this trio is in the final stages of rehab from an MCL sprain. Of the three, Al-Shaair may be closest to returning. The fourth-year linebacker categorized himself as a bit ahead of schedule and expects to play against the Chargers on Sunday night, via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner (on Twitter).
San Francisco has already used three of its injury activations this season, so some more complex navigation may begin to come into play here. Under the NFL’s new IR-return system, teams are allotted eight activations per season. It is safe to assume Mitchell and Al-Shaair will be back, with the former set to complement Christian McCaffrey and the latter the team’s No. 3 linebacker behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. It will be interesting to see if the 49ers activate McKivitz, who is the swingman behind Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, or gives him the full three-week timetable partially to gauge how its injury situation looks later in November.
Mitchell began the season as San Francisco’s starting back but did not make it through Week 1. The 49ers found a talented player in last year’s sixth round, moving Mitchell past third-rounder Trey Sermon on their depth chart from the jump. The Louisiana product totaled 963 rushing yards in just 11 games as a rookie but has battled extensive injury trouble as a pro. Shoulder, rib, finger and knee injuries led to Mitchell missing six games last season.
After trading Jeff Wilson to the Dolphins, however, the 49ers are thinner at running back. Mitchell returning would help the cause. Third-round rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who was not placed on IR following his high ankle sprain, should be expected to factor into the newly McCaffrey-headlined backfield equation soon as well.
Al-Shaair is in a contract year and saw the 49ers lock down Greenlaw. With Warner signed long term, Al-Shaair could be auditioning for other team’s during this season’s second half. He started 13 games last season but has been out since Week 3 this year. McKivitz started one game in place of Williams this year but went down with his knee injury. The former fifth-round pick is signed through 2023.