In something of a stunner, SF 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman is heading to injured reserve, according to reports on Wednesday morning.
When SF 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed the media following his team’s 24-20 Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the only injuries he discussed were suffered by wide receiver Richie James (hamstring) and tight end George Kittle (knee).
On Wednesday morning, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Sherman was headed to injured reserve, citing a leg issue as the possible reason for Sherman to appear on the injury report:
Sherman also didn’t indicate anything was wrong when he spoke to reporters after Sunday’s game. Yet the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch pointed out Sherman was relieved by depth cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for the final four defensive snaps of Week 1, perhaps citing some evidence of Sherman’s injury.
Fortunately, the 2020 version of injured reserve doesn’t constitute a likely season-ending injury as it otherwise would in previous seasons, thanks to offseason rule changes amid the current pandemic and abbreviated offseason.
Because of this, Sherman could be made available again after a three-week absence, which will kick off this Sunday against the New York Jets.
Still, it’s yet another test an already banged-up SF 49ers squad will have to deal with.
SF 49ers depth chart: Expect Ahkello Witherspoon to start in Week 2
The Niners rolled out Sherman and No. 2 cornerback Emmanuel Moseley as their starting tandem in Week 1, and there’s no reason to assume Moseley won’t be out there again as the regular starter in New York.
But the question now arises: Who replaces Sherman on the interim?
Prior to suffering a hamstring injury late in training camp, veteran corner Jason Verrett might have been the favorite. Despite appearing for only two snaps on San Francisco’s defense in 2019, Verrett appeared to bounce back nicely in camp, suggesting he’d compete with Moseley for the rights to start opposite Sherman.
The hamstring injury changed that, however.
Verrett was listed as inactive for Week 1 and didn’t participate in practice leading up to that week’s game. While further details about his health aren’t quite available yet, and we’ll likely not know more until the 49ers’ final injury report Friday afternoon, one should instead draw the conclusion Witherspoon will wind up starting in lieu of Sherman this Sunday.
Witherspoon’s NFL career has been up and down, yes. This carried over into training camp where he was both impressive at times and wildly inconsistent. That’s a worry.
Fortunately, however, the Jets passing attack centers primarily around wide receiver Jamison Crowder, particularly with fellow wideout Denzel Mims landing on injured reserve.
Still, it’s not an ideal scenario for San Francisco, which will be without Sherman on Sunday, as well as the following week against the New York Giants and in Week 3 versus the Philadelphia Eagles.