Several 49ers players are slated to return to the field heading into Week 1 and coach Kyle Shanahan sees the potential of what those missing pieces bring to the table.
“We’ve got a number of guys on our team who could take us completely to another level,” Shanahan said via conference call.
Key players on both sides of the ball have been unable to practice for considerable portions of the offseason due to injuries. Luckily for the team, most appear to be getting healthy as the regular season approaches.
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The defensive line has had very little time with both Dee Ford and Nick Bosa playing simultaneously. The offensive line has operated without center Weston Richburg since the end of last season.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander was finally able to get live game reps in Kansas City, but Jerick McKinnon has still been unable to participate in team drills. Tight end George Kittle has been sidelined with a calf strain.
Week 1 at Tampa Bay might be the first time certain combinations of players are seen together on the field. Shanahan is not worried about how they will mesh together.
“I’ve been happy with the standard of our defense of playing physical,” Shanahan said. “The way they’ve been running to the ball, I think they’ve been playing well despite missing some guys.
San Francisco 49ers
“I also felt similarly on offense, too. When you get guys back like the guys you mentioned on defense, when you get guys back like Kittle, if we could get Jet back, we’ll see how that goes this week.”
While part of the team’s promise has to do with health, Shanahan explains that it also has to do with each individual playing up to their talent level.
“A lot of that has to do with guys getting healthy and also guys playing to their potential. What I’m excited is I can say that about a lot of guys on our team. Now, we’ve got to see if we can do it or not.
“Sometimes that’s out of your hands. I always say it’s in God’s hands when it comes to injuries, but that’s why we also need guys to take care of their bodies not just on Sunday, but throughout the week and do things the right way, and we need some other guys that we believe in, who do have the ability to take our group to another level.”
While Shanahan remains positive about the season ahead, he also tempers his expectations knowing there is a lot of work to do.
“We know who those guys are, but we’ve got to get that done,” Shanahan said. “It is very encouraging because I see that a lot with a lot of people which makes me excited about this year in comparison to the last two years.
“I also know that doesn’t mean anything,” Shanahan said. “You’ve still got to go do it. It’s still hard. This is a very challenging league and every team feels the exact same way is what I’m saying. There’s a lot of pressure on a lot of these guys. The neat thing is though, all of these guys are capable of doing this and we’ve got to get them there.”