The San Francisco 49ers may be getting an encouraging return ahead of their blockbuster matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
The trip to Nashville will be a challenge, as the Titans are rocking a 9-5 record despite missing star RB Derrick Henry. While Dont’a Foreman has done a solid job in Henry’s place, the 49ers are hoping they get one of their most versatile players back from injury to match him: Azeez Al-Shaair.
San Francisco GM John Lynch hopped on KNBR to talk Niners, and he gave the faithful an encouraging update on the linebacker’s chances to play on Thursday night after missing Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons with an elbow sprain.
“Azeez is doing well. Really, what I appreciate about Azeez is he loves playing the game,” Lynch said. “And so, he tried like heck to get back for Sunday. It probably wasn’t realistic but when you take that approach, I think you’re a lot closer for the next week.”
The context of this week’s game being on Thursday hurts, as an extra day or two of rest could’ve made Al-Shaair’s return a little less rushed. But the Niners aren’t going to force the young linebacker back, and Lynch says the team is working off his feedback.
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What It Will Take for San Francisco 49ers to Get Al-Shaair Back
Part of the injury process is a team feeling out a player’s tolerance for pain. Aggravating an injury is always a concern, but sometimes it’s simply about what the player can withstand. Lynch says that’s a big part of why his status is up in the air.
“I think he’s trending in the right direction,” Lynch continued, per 49ers Webzone. “We’ll see [about] the pain threshold. He’s been outstanding for us. … I think Azeez has clearly [taken the next step in his career], and he’s a difference-maker for us out there. … He’s so respected in our locker room and throughout our organization.”
In a game like this past Sunday’s you can afford to let a starter miss out. The Falcons certainly aren’t pushovers, but the 49ers were able to take care of business without Al-Shaair.
But against the Titans, having the linebacker back would be a huge boost. Al-Shaair has made a serious impact this season, and there’s no doubt he’d make a difference on Thursday.
Al-Shaiir’s Breakout Year
There was optimism for Al-Shaiir coming into the season, but he’s lived up to those high expectations. The San Francisco 49ers LB has already blasted through his career bests, per Pro Football Reference.
96 total tackles certainly stands out, but the 57 solo tackles is especially impressive, just five less than his star counterpart Fred Warner. Further, his nine tackles for loss are only second on the squad to Nick Bosa.
But it seems like the Niners are just seeing the beginning of Al-Shaair’s rise. In his last three games before missing Week 15, Al-Shaair’s combined stats feature 26 solo tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. Plus, before his elbow sprain against the Cincinnati Bengals, he had three tackles for loss.
Not bad for an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic.