With rookie safety Ji'Ayir Brown ruled out of the 49ers' Week 17 game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, veteran Logan Ryan is in line to make his first start in red and gold.
Ryan's ability to seamlessly step into San Francisco's secondary is exactly why coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch decided to sign him in early December after injuries to Talanoa Hufanga and George Odum. And now that Brown is sidelined with a knee sprain, Ryan is the next man up at safety.
"I'm just real glad we have him right now," Shanahan told Greg Papa on the latest "49ers Game Plan" episode. "I didn't know [Ryan], but I played against him a ton and always had a lot of respect playing against him. I thought he was a really good player.
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"[He] always seemed like one of the smarter players on the field."
Once Hufanga and Odum were injured, the 49ers knew Brown, despite his youth, was ready to fill in. But with little experience at safety on the roster beyond that, Shanahan said the team targeted Ryan right away. The safety happened to be on a cruise with his family when the 49ers came calling, and now, just a few weeks later, he'll have a chance to make a positive impact for San Francisco on Sunday at FedExField.
"You're always one injury away from a guy who's not ready being out there in some real impactful games and playing a starting position," Shanahan told Papa. "And you can do that with some rookies and stuff, but it gets harder and harder, and you always are hoping there's a guy out there with experience that can do it."
During an interview with KNBR on Friday, before Brown officially had been ruled out for Sunday's game, Lynch detailed why he feels confident in Ryan's ability to take on an increased role.
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"It's nice to have a guy who's got a lot of versatility to his name," Lynch told KNBR. "... It's nice that if Ji'Ayir can't go, that you can turn to a guy like Logan Ryan and feel very comfortable with what you have back there."
Shanahan told reporters Friday that Brown has a "chance" to return for the 49ers' regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium next weekend. But in the meantime, he knows Ryan is more than capable of filling in.
"Just us playing against him, he always seemed like such an aware, smart player and a guy that had a lot of experience playing a lot of different defenses," Shanahan told reporters. "We brought him in here when we had a few injuries. He looked just, since he's been here, like what we hoped he was. Now that we've had those injuries, he is in that role.
"He's looked exactly like we hoped he'd be. He's very comfortable and knows what he's doing, and the game's not too big for him."