Niners Welcome Back 3 Starters From Injured Reserve: Report

GETTY Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. #30 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne #84 after scoring on a 25 yrad touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Santa Clara, California.

The San Francisco 49ers just broke a four-game losing streak with a convincing win on the road against the Chicago Bears, and the good news doesn’t stop there.

The Niners announced Monday, November 1 that they will welcome back three starters from the injured reserve list (IR). The team has opened the practice windows for All-Pro tight end George Kittle, last season’s leading rusher Jeff Wilson Jr., and starting kicker Robbie Gould. All three are scheduled to return to practice Wednesday.

The news comes just in time for a crucial rematch with the NFL’s best Arizona Cardinals (7-1) at home in San Francisco. The Niners (3-4) fell to the division rival Cardinals by a score of 17-10 in the teams’ Week 5 matchup.

Nick Waggoner, of ESPN, first reported the return of the Niners’ offensive weapons in an article published Monday, November 1.

“When the Niners begin preparation for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, they will have tight end George Kittle, kicker Robbie Gould and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. back on the practice field,” Waggoner wrote.

Niners’ Offensive Reinforcements Arrive Just in Time For Mid-Season Push

George Kittle

Getty49ers tight end George Kittle accounted for a big chunk of San Francisco’s passing attack before being placed on IR prior to Week 5 against the Cardinals.

The return of offensive reinforcements to the Niners’ roster could not have come at a more opportune time.

San Francisco is coming off a 33-22 victory over the Bears in Chicago that arguably saved the 49ers’ season from the brink. Trade talk swirling around veteran starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has slowed following his stellar performance last Sunday, during which he completed 17-of-28 passes for 322 yards while rushing the ball 5 times for 2 touchdowns, per ESPN.

Garoppolo detractors took a backseat for at least a week, though rookie signal caller Trey Lance continues to loom large on the Niners’ sideline. But the young QB’s time, which will no doubt come sooner than later, was pushed further off by the announcement that Garoppolo would receive perhaps his most dangerous target back this week.

Kittle has struggled with injuries over both this season and the last, missing three games this year after starting only eight contests in 2020. Arguably the league’s top tight end when healthy, Kittle has yet to find the end zone this season but will undoubtedly feature heavily in the Niners’ game plan against a Cardinals team with a ferocious pass rush led by defensive end Chandler Jones.

Wilson Jr. Adds More Depth to Young Running Back Group

Jeff Wilson

GettySan Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr.

Another name that will potentially appear on the Niners’ stat sheet this week is Wilson Jr., who hasn’t recorded a play for the team yet this season.

Wilson suffered a bizarre knee injury during the preseason as he stood up from a chair in the Niners’ locker room following a leg workout. But before bad luck befell the fourth-year running back, he was in line to be San Francisco’s second option in the backfield behind season-opening starter Raheem Mostert — who was lost for the year to chipped cartilage in his knee Week 1 against the Detroit Lions.

Wilson Jr. actually led the Niners in rushing last season despite playing behind Mostert, tallying 600 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground over the course of 12 games, per Pro Football Reference. He also caught 13 passes for 133 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell has emerged as the 49ers’ top running back so far in 2021, a position he is likely to hold in the immediate future. However, Wilson Jr. has accomplished more during his time in the NFL than has Mitchell, and the fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft has already been hampered by injury during his first season, missing two games with a shoulder injury.

Regardless of who starts in the backfield for San Francisco, or who receives the most action, Garoppolo and the Niners’ offense should be bolstered by the return of three starters this week as they look to move to .500 and claw their way back into the NFC playoff picture.

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