On the week DeForest Buckner makes his return to Santa Clara, Javon Kinlaw’s availability is in question.
Kinlaw, whom the 49ers drafted with the pick received from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for Buckner, has been dealing with a lingering knee injury since the end of his rookie season.
The South Carolina product had a procedure during the offseason to clean up issues from his knee injury sustained in Week 14, but has had a few setbacks in his return. Kinlaw missed Week 1 of his second season but played in each of the next four games, though unable to fully participate in practice most weeks.
“It’s a big concern this year,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “It’s nothing against him, but it’s been unfortunate. His development is on hold. I was real excited how he started to end last year, especially at Dallas -- it was one of his best. The Rams game I thought he was starting to turn into that player.”
Shanahan and the 49ers' medical staff thought that Kinlaw would be healthier after the offseason procedure, but that has not been the case. Managing the injury in order for Kinlaw to be able to play in games has included limiting his snap counts and participation at practice since training camp.
Shanahan knows it has been as frustrating for Kinlaw as it has for the coaching staff. Both sides want to see him progress, but without practice, it’s been more difficult and slower than expected.
“It has affected him all through this year,” Shanahan said. “That’s a setback now and that’s why he’s behind the eight ball this year, but I don’t think his story is totally finished being written yet. No one is upset with Kinlaw right now. It’s been unfortunate with what happened.”
San Francisco 49ers
Shanahan and his staff still have confidence in Kinlaw and his potential through the uphill battle. In his four games this season, Kinlaw has yet to record a sack, but has contributed to the team’s run defense. As a rookie, Kinlaw appeared in 14 games, registering 1.5 sacks and 33 tackles, including three for a loss.
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Kinlaw’s biggest play of his debut season was an interception returned for a touchdown in the Week 12 win over the Rams. Shanahan knows the enormous lineman’s potential is just waiting to be tapped into, but for now, it will have to wait.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we have to get his knee better so he has a chance to develop and turn into the player that we know he is."