If the San Francisco 49ers were thinking their injury issues couldn’t get any worse, they need to think again.
The latest hiccup comes in the form of Ben Garland, an interior lineman who was expected to be used as a backup option for starting center Weston Richburg, who is expected to miss the first six weeks of the season.
Garland did well in place of Richburg last year, but it appears as if the former Denver Bronco is the latest San Francisco player to suffer an injury.
Center Ben Garland sprained his ankle in practice today and sat out the second half of the session. That’s another blow to the team’s center depth, though it doesn’t appear if Garland‘s injury is serious.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 18, 2020
The good news is that Garland appears to be okay for the long-term, but San Francisco isn’t wasting much time looking at potential options, with one coming in the form of former Chicago Bears starter Hroniss Grasu.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 18, 2020
The Athletic’s Matt Barrows also reported that the 49ers are looking at a long-time veteran to come back to Santa Clara, California in order to shore up the offensive line.
— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) August 18, 2020
Dan Kilgore left San Francisco after the 2017 season and seven total years with the team after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, joining the Miami Dolphins for a pair of seasons before hitting free agency again this year.
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Kilgore’s and Grasu’s Backgrounds
Many die-hard 49ers fans probably don’t need too much info on Kilgore, as the team’s former center was a mainstay of the squad for much of the 2010s.
Interestingly enough, however, Kilgore didn’t actually earn his first start with the 49ers all the way until the 2014 season, when the former Appalachian State player stepped in for Jonathan Goodwin for seven starts.
This thrusted Goodwin into the conversation as the team’s starting center for the next few seasons, which saw him take over the position over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, earning 29 total starts before the now-32-year-old lineman hit free agency.
Trading Santa Clara, California for Miami, Kilgore started a total of 17 games over two seasons with the Dolphins. Neither year were especially impressive seasons for the Miami offense or their offensive line, but Kilgore was generally the first name on the list as the team’s center.
Grasu was drafted by the Bears in the 2015 NFL Draft, joining Chicago as a third-round pick after a successful career as an Oregon Duck.
While Kilgore is hitting the final phase of his career, Grasu would be an option that could still grow as a player with just four NFL seasons to his name, two of which he spent with the Baltimore Ravens as a backup option.
Grasu’s age of 29 is a bit misleading considering how little he’s experienced at the NFL level, and if the former Bear was able to come in and quickly make an impact, he could be a diamond in the rough for San Francisco going forward.
49ers Current Situation
It seems like San Francisco can’t catch a break between injury recover with Richburg, Spencer Long’s retirement, and a pair of opt-outs from other offensive lineman.
Similar to the wide receiver group which just lost Jalen Hurd, the 49ers are now having to think on their feet and find potential replacements, whether that’s for guys that will see gametime or if its just to nail down insurance in case more injuries and issues arise.
Either way, the 49ers looking at Kilgore and Grasu makes plenty of sense. Kilgore’s a guy who spent a year with Shanahan and a considerable amount of time with San Francisco and should be able to come in and meet expectations fairly quickly.
Grasu is a bit less experienced, but did earn 12 starting nods with the Bears before joining the Ravens for the last two seasons.
That being said, the 49ers will probably hope neither Kilgore or Grasu ever see more than a few snaps. While good enough to start at the NFL level, the pair area already a clear step down from Richburg and Garland.
The real hope for the team will be that Garland’s sprain is minor, and that he’ll be back for Week 1 or Week 2 at the latest.
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.