49ers Place Receiver on Reserve/COVID-19 List After First Tests

GETTY Wide receiver Richie James #13 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a pass against cornerback Mark Fields #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of a preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Well, the good news that running back Raheem Mostert signed a new deal is being complemented by news that the San Francisco 49ers have placed a player on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The team officially announced that wide receiver Richie James Jr. was placed on the list on Monday. NFL teams are unable to comment on the specifics of James’ health or whether he tested positive or not and are only able to make the announcement.

For James, a return after testing negative or after quarantine still isn’t possible due to the fact that the receiver broke his wrist earlier this summer when practicing with other San Francisco offensive members.

Bad News for James

It’s obviously not ideal for James or any player to be exposed to a positive COVID-19 test or to test positive themselves, however, it’s the broken wrist that is still a bigger issue for the receiver.

The 49ers’ receiving group might be the best yet under head coach Kyle Shanahan. What that means though, especially in a disrupted offseason and preseason, is that players have less chances to prove their worth over their competition.

Since being selected by San Francisco in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft, James has become a role player and returner for the 49ers, playing in 29 total games and getting a starting nod three times.

With those opportunities, James has totaled 295 receiving yards and two touchdowns, one in each of the past two seasons. The Middle Tennessee State alum has also proven to be a reliable returner for the 49ers, but isn’t their first option thanks to Deebo Samuel.

With the addition of 2020 NFL Draft first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, the return of receivers Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor as well as the arrival of Travis Benjamin as a veteran competitor for one of the 49ers’ roster spots.

The addition to the list, whether its his own positive test or not, just further complicates the situation for both James and the 49ers. When the 24-year-old comes back from the list and his wrist injury, he’ll have limited chances to ensure he gets a final roster spot.

49ers and COVID-19

James had to report to Santa Clara, California on Thursday alongside other injured players, rookies and quarterbacks, which is why his switch to the reserve/COVID-19 list is happening.

On Tuesday, the rest of the 49ers will return to northern California to report for training camp as well as begin their own testing, so don’t be surprised if more members of San Francisco test positive in the coming days.

However, what this does confirm so far is that players like receiver Deebo Samuel and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and rookies Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk have not tested positive after the first test. They’ll all being getting tested again before being approved to hit the practice field or workout facilities.

However, in the meantime, the 49ers can isolate James from the team until San Francisco can determine he’s good to return.

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Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.

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