SATURDAY: The 49ers will drop James from their roster for the time being. San Francisco waived the wide receiver with an injury designation and re-signed wideout River Cracraft to take James’ roster spot.
FRIDAY: As the preseason winds down, the 49ers have suffered a significant injury. Receiver Richie James has a knee issue that requires surgery, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Friday.
Shanahan said the injury will keep James sidelined for at least six weeks. A hamstring injury limited James to 11 games last season, but he still managed to play a pretty big role on offense. After serving mostly as a return man during his first two years in the pros, James was thrust into a more prominent position due to San Francisco’s health issues at receiver.
He ended up finishing with 23 catches for 394 yards and a touchdown in those 11 games. Often used as a deep threat, he averaged a robust 17.1 yards per reception. His true breakout came during a Thursday Night Football game you may recall, when he had 184 yards against the Packers.
After returning 33 in 2019, James only returned six punts last year as he focused on his receiving work. The timeline presented by Shanahan means he’ll miss at least the first handful of regular season games. He’ll presumably go on IR after the cutdown to 53 so that he’ll be able to play again this season.
It’s a tough break for the Middle Tennessee product as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. He was a seventh-round pick back in 2018. James was expected to be the punt returner again in 2021, a role which now will likely fall to veteran Travis Benjamin.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.