49ers’ Jerick McKinnon, Malcolm Smith likely out for the preseason

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch clarified running back Jerick McKinnon and linebacker Malcolm Smith would likely miss the entirety of the preseason Friday and wouldn’t be available until Week 1.

To say the San Francisco 49ers have been bitten pretty hard by the injury bug amid training camp and the 2018 preseason is a bit of an understatement.

It seemed as if every drive during the Niners’ 24-21 exhibition victory against the Dallas Cowboys involved one player getting hurt. Combined with a relatively lengthy injury list from camp action, it’s easy to see why San Francisco wants to be cautious with some of its more important players ahead of the regular season.

Appearing on KNBR 680’s Murph and Mac Show Friday morning, general manager John Lynch clarified the status on two of the injured 49ers of note, running back Jerick McKinnon (calf) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring).

“The good news is it’s not going to be long-term, but the bad news is it’s going to take him right up to Week 1, our opener,” Lynch said. “So his opportunity to get more in rhythm in our system, that kind of goes out the door. But he’s played a lot of football, and we play a lot of football in the offseason, OTAs and all that. We’re going to have to trust that he’s going to be ready.”

McKinnon, one of San Francisco’s high-prized free-agent signings this offseason, injured his calf during camp practice shortly after the Niners’ preseason opener. Fortunately, it wasn’t a knee injury, which was the initial fear. But losing out on valuable reps between now and Week 1 isn’t good.

Smith, on the other hand, tweaked his hamstring early during the game against Dallas and never returned.

“The good news was he felt it going and stopped right before it popped,” Lynch continued. “So he’s another guy that we think will be ready for Week 1 but probably won’t do much in the preseason.”

You can listen to Lynch’s entire interview on KNBR here:

Not long after McKinnon’s injury, the Niners inked 29-year-old veteran running back Alfred Morris to a one-year deal. Morris, who thrived under head coach Kyle Shanahan with the Washington Redskins between 2012 and 2013, has a legitimate shot to make the 53-man roster to open up the regular season.

Especially with San Francisco having to absorb linebacker Reuben Foster‘s two-game suspension to kick off the year.

Foster’s pending absence is another reason why Smith’s healthy return will be so important. Alongside Smith, the 49ers are likely going to platoon fellow linebackers Brock Coyle and the rookie, Fred Warner.

Morris, meanwhile, could easily be insurance for McKinnon and an already banged-up running back corps, also missing No. 2 tailback Matt Breida (shoulder), who’ll also likely be out until the regular season.

If either McKinnon or Breida isn’t fully ready by Week 1, one would expect Morris to see substantial playing time when the Niners travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings.

In the meantime, San Francisco kicks off their second preseason game against the Houston Texans this Saturday, Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. ET from NRG Stadium.