49ers RB Jerick McKinnon Suffered Potential Setback in Recovery from Knee Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2019

San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon runs with the ball during NFL football practice at the team's headquarters Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon experienced a setback in his recovery from a torn ACL he suffered last September, general manager John Lynch confirmed Wednesday.

Lynch told KNBR, "Yesterday was not encouraging," with regard to McKinnon's return to practice (h/t the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch).

The Athletic's Cam Inman added more perspective:

Cam Inman @CamInman

I saw McKinnon adjust his knee brace at one point, didn’t look comfortable but didn’t look in pain. This casts doubt on his roster status. Has to be on Club 53 on Saturday to go on short-term IR afterward. If IR now, done for year, again https://t.co/Ps7stu5H8e

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported McKinnon had a "flare-up" and that the 49ers are determining the extent of the situation before making their next move.

Matt Barrows @mattbarrows

Jerick McKinnon has suffered three flare-ups in his surgically repaired right knee: * Before training camp. He began training camp on PUP * After his initial return to practice Aug. 6 * After his second return to practice Tuesday

San Francisco signed McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million deal that included $18 million guaranteed last offseason. He was coming off a productive 2017 campaign in which he gained 991 yards from scrimmage and scored five touchdowns.

While the Niners planned on McKinnon being a part of their backfield in 2019, they also planned for the possibility his knee injury could continue to be an issue.

Rob Lowder @Rob_Lowder

Jerick McKinnon’s struggle to return from a torn ACL is one of the many reasons the #49ers have invested so heavily in the backfield. Shanahan’s offense won’t skip a beat with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, who can all contribute both as a back and receiver.

Matt Breida led the team in rushing yards (814) while averaging 5.3 yards per carry last season. Even if McKinnon is healthy enough to suit up in Week 1 on Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Breida is San Francisco's primary ball-carrier.

The 49ers also signed Tevin Coleman to a two-year, $8.5 million deal to provide an aerial dimension at running back. Coleman had 92 receptions for 1,010 yards and 11 touchdowns in four years with the Atlanta Falcons. He can ease some of the rushing load on Breida as well.

The finances will make it tough for San Francisco to release McKinnon outright. Even as a post-June 1 cut, he'd count for $5.7 million in dead money for 2019, with only $50,000 in salary-cap savings.

Placing him on injured reserve and evaluating his long-term future at a later date might be Lynch's only move.