Deebo Samuel

Aiyuk expects Deebo to play for 49ers vs. Lions in NFC title game

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SANTA CLARA — Deebo Samuel, who is dealing with a left shoulder injury, provided some encouraging signs of his progress Wednesday toward returning to action this week.

The wide receiver didn't take part in 49ers practice Wednesday, but the chances of him playing in the NFC Championship Game appear to be trending in a positive direction.

With a football tucked under his left arm, Samuel ran back and forth along the length of the practice field during the time at the beginning of practice in which the media was allowed to observe the 49ers' workout.

Samuel sustained the shoulder injury Saturday night that limited him to just nine plays in the 49ers’ 24-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round playoff game.

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk expressed optimism when asked if he thought Samuel would be able to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

“I do, personally,” Aiyuk said. “But (I’ll) just continue to pray for him that he gets better throughout the week and be out there with us to finish the job.”

Earlier this season, Samuel missed nearly three full games with a shoulder injury, and the 49ers went 0-3 in those games with losses to the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.

In the playoffs, the 49ers managed to beat the Packers despite Samuel being an onlooker for most of the game.

Jauan Jennings and Chris Conley played Samuel’s position with Ray-Ray McCloud mostly taking Jennings’ spot as the slot receiver.

Aiyuk said he believes the group of wide receivers is better equipped now to carry on and produce if Samuel is unavailable.

Conley had a key 17-yard reception on the 49ers' game-winning drive, while Jennings took advantage of his extended play time with five receptions for 61 yards after catching just 19 passes for 265 yards in the regular season.

"I feel this is his moment,” Aiyuk said of Jennings. “This is what he’s made for; this is what he’s built for. So if the opportunity presents itself I’m ready to ride with him.

“All the work we put in, this is what it’s for. I’m sure everyone will step up and be ready.”

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