49ers star wide receiver Deebo Samuel suffered a shoulder injury during Saturday’s divisional round playoff win over the Packers. His status for next Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the Lions remains up in the air as he undergoes further testing.
Injury Occurred in Second Quarter of Packers Game
Samuel exited Saturday’s game in the second quarter after catching a pass over the middle from rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. He was hit hard by Packers safety Adrian Amos and landed awkwardly on his left shoulder.
Samuel was attended to by trainers on the field before walking off under his own power. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game shortly thereafter.
49ers Awaiting Test Results to Determine Severity
In his postgame press conference, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said the team was awaiting MRI results to determine the extent of Samuel’s injury. He noted it could be anything from a bruise to a more serious issue.
On Sunday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Samuel was considered “50-50” for next week’s title game due to his shoulder. Rapoport added that doctors were still awaiting a couple more test results to make a final determination.
|Results still pending
|Results still pending
At this stage, the 49ers seem unsure if Samuel has suffered any structural damage. However, Shanahan told reporters, “My gut isn’t great” regarding Samuel’s long-term prognosis.
Samuel Has Been Offensive Centerpiece This Season
The 26-year-old Samuel has been an indispensable part of San Francisco’s offense this season. He earned First Team All-Pro honors after compiling 1,748 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns during the regular season.
During Saturday’s game, Samuel made an immediate impact with four touches for 39 yards before his early exit. That stretch included an electrifying 30-yard run on a fly sweep that set up the 49ers’ first touchdown.
Beyond the numbers, Samuel is the focal point that defenses must account for on every play. His versatility to line up out wide or in the backfield creates mismatches that 49ers coaches scheme ways to exploit each week.
49ers Offense Struggled After Samuel’s Exit
Following Samuel’s second quarter departure, San Francisco struggled to maintain drives for the remainder of the game. The team mustered just six points after Samuel exited and failed to score another touchdown.
In the second half, Purdy completed only eight passes for 94 yards with one interception. Star running back Christian McCaffrey also found little room to run between the tackles.
The drop-off highlights just how much the 49ers offense depends on Samuel’s involvement. While McCaffrey and receivers like Brandon Aiyuk are talented playmakers, the unit loses much of its dynamism without its top wideout creating havoc.
Detroit’s Pass Defense Is Vulnerable
If Samuel cannot suit up in the NFC title game, it would provide a major boost to the Lions’ upset chances. Detroit narrowly beat Seattle in the wild card round before upending the Giants on the road last week.
The Lions secondary has struggled against top receivers this season, especially those who play both outside and in the slot like Samuel. Speed threats such as Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and A.J. Brown all posted huge stat lines against Detroit in 2022.
Without Samuel exploiting those coverage deficiencies, the Lions would be well-positioned to slow down San Francisco’s multi-faceted attack. Rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchison could also tee off on chasing Purdy in obvious pass situations.
Samuel Has Gutted Through Injuries Previously
There have been questions in the past about Samuel’s durability over a full season. However, when healthy, he has consistently played through nagging ailments in big moments.
Last year, Samuel suffered a groin injury late in the season but returned for critical Week 18 and playoff games. His physical running style lends itself to bumps and bruises, though he normally plays through minor issues.
Samuel even mentioned earlier this season that he was recovering from a high ankle sprain originally suffered in Week 2. Despite that, he only missed two midseason games before returning to pile up nearly 700 total yards over the last six contests.
His pain tolerance and commitment to suit up during the 49ers’ Super Bowl run suggest Samuel will do everything in his power to face the Lions. But the team’s medical staff could intervene if his injury proves significant enough.
49ers Will Explore Roster Replacements If Samuel Can’t Play
In the event Samuel does not improve enough to play next Sunday, the 49ers have limited options to replicate his production. But the front office will likely explore some external additions.
General manager John Lynch could eye practice squad elevations or street free agents to bolster depth. Former Packers and Raiders wideout Trevor Davis is a candidate for promotion after spending the entire season on San Francisco’s practice squad.
Other vested veterans like Tavon Austin, Phillip Dorsett or John Brown could get tryouts this week. None would match Samuel’s skill set but do have experience playing in big games.
Final Decision Likely Comes Down to Game-Day Evaluation
Ultimately, whether Samuel suits up to face the Lions will probably come down to Sunday’s pre-game warm-ups. If he can demonstrate enough strength in his shoulder without significant loss of range of motion, coaches may clear him.
But with San Francisco one win away from the Super Bowl, the team has extra incentive to exercise caution. As important as Samuel is to their success, he represents too valuable of an asset to risk further injury if not fully healthy.
His participation level in practices on Friday and Saturday should provide clues about his possible availability. Still, all signs point to coaches evaluating Samuel up until kickoff before ruling on his status.
For 49ers fans, Deebo watch now becomes the dominant storyline over the next week.
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