Niners Waive Injury Plagued Playmaker After Failed 3-Year Run

Kyle shanahan John lynch

Getty Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (R) talks with general manager John Lynch.

The story of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jalen Hurd will forever be defined by one question: What might have been?

Niners brass parted ways with Hurd Thursday, November 11, waiving the wideout who had been on the injured reserve list (IR) for the entirety of the 2021 regular season. It was a narrative 49ers fans became all too familiar with over Hurd’s three injury-plagued seasons in San Francisco.

Selected by the team in the third-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Hurd had a promising preseason stretch until he broke a bone in his back prior to the regular season. Following a year of rehabilitation, Hurd returned with high hopes in 2020 but promptly suffered a torn ACL, which caused the young wideout to miss all of his second season, as well.

Hoping that the third time would be the charm, Hurd spent the offseason and preseason this year dealing with a lingering knee issue in the same joint that suffered the ACL tear. He appeared in the team’s final preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders, less than two weeks before the regular season opener, but re-aggravated the knee during that contest. He never saw the field again and was ultimately relegated to IR.

All told, Hurd spent two and a half full seasons with the Niners, but never played even one regular season snap.

Hurd Departure Was a Long Time Coming

Donovan Olumba

GettySan Francisco 49ers Jalen Hurd fights for a first down during a 2019 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan began speaking in ways during Hurd’s preseason struggles that indicated the wideout would need to play, and play a lot, to keep his spot on the team. In the weeks leading up to the season opener against the Detroit Lions, Shanahan implied that the wide receiver may not make the 53-man roster if he couldn’t prove a consistent ability to stay on the field.

Hurd’s participation in practice as the preseason ramped up allowed for some hope from within the Niners front office, and his 4 catches for 25 yards against the Raiders was enough to buy him some benefit of the doubt. But when Shanahan was asked during a conference call with reporters on Monday about Hurd’s status, his tone had changed, and it felt like the beginning of a countdown to an inevitable end, which became a reality on Thursday.

“I don’t think we’ve made any announcements or deciding for sure, but I’m not expecting him to come back this year,” Shanahan said. “We tried to give him some rest because things keep happening and it’s not getting better. We have all these timelines on it and we’re not meeting those deadlines, so it’s not healing the way that we want. I don’t know for sure, but just looking at how it’s gone, I don’t think it’s going to heal fast enough this year for him to help us.”

Hurd’s Skill Set Would Have Complemented Niners’ WR Group

Deebo Samuel

GettySan Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel said people are envious of, and even hate, his success this season.

Niners wideout Deebo Samuel is having a breakout season, with 49 catches for 882 yards and 4 TDs through eight games, per ESPN. The second-round pick out of the 2019 NFL Draft is threatening to make a Pro Bowl this year and has established himself as the team’s clear cut No. 1 option.

Brandon Aiyuk has suffered through a sophomore slump this year following an impressive rookie campaign, but appears to have gotten back on track with his best game of the season last week against the Arizona Cardinals, during which his snagged 6 receptions for 89 yards and a TD.

Hurd could have proven an excellent third option, if he had ever been able to get on the field. Noted for his versatility coming out of Baylor University, Hurd was thought capable of playing both wide receiver and taking snaps at running back, but it was not to be.

Hurd is unlikely to play for any team this year, as he continues to recover from the knee injury. But if he can get healthy at some point in the future, don’t be surprised if another NFL franchise in need of a playmaker takes a flyer on the young wideout.

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