According to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, center Weston Richburg is likely going to open the 49ers’ 2020 season on the team’s physically-unable-to-perform list, which would sit the 29-year-old out for the first six weeks before he would be able to return.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 16, 2020
This would certainly be a blow for an offensive line already undergoing some significant changes after the retirement of left tackle Joe Staley and arrival of former Washington standout Trent Williams, as well as the release and ensuing retirement of guard Mike Person.
That being said, the 49ers will have some options in terms of how they handle Richburg’s injury and who might be stepping in for the center come the first six weeks of the season.
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Richburg’s Time with 49ers, Giants
Since joining San Francisco ahead of the 2018 season after a successful start to his NFL career with the New York Giants, which led to him signing a huge 5-year, $47.5 million contract with the 49ers.
After standing out at Colorado State, the Giants selected Richburg in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, having him be an important investment as the team attempted to build protection around then-quarterback Eli Manning.
Richburg was immediately placed into a starting role as a guard after an offensive line injury crisis in New York, which the former Ram had no issue handling, quickly making the starting job his own over his first season with the Giants.
After two more years as the team’s starting center, Richburg suffered a concussion in the 2017 season, sidelining him for the duration of the year and ending his time in New York on a somewhat dour note.
However, the 49ers were ready to pickup the interior lineman, immediately making him the starting center over 2018 and 2019, which Richburg handled with relative comfort.
But the injury bug again bit the 29-year-old late in the 2019 season, as a torn patellar tendon ended Richburg’s season and forced Ben Garland to take over the center spot to finish the season for the 49ers.
The good news for San Francisco is that Ben Garland is still around and can boast an impressive series of performances when he had to step in for Richburg for the final six games of the 49ers’ 2019 campaign.
Not only did Garland step in, but was mostly unnoticed throughout the team’s playoff run, which is exactly what you want from a replacement lineman: no penalties, no sacks, no noise. Just solid performances.
San Francisco has no doubt been up-to-date with Richburg on the situation, which is likely why the team made sure to add Long this past week and are likely ensuring Garland is preparing for an important six weeks to open the season.
The 49ers offensive line will have to answer some questions this year, but as long as Garland can continue those “quiet” showings while the team waits for Garland, they should be able to mitigate the absence and get back to a healthy line for the back-half of the 2020 season.
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.