49ers news: Niners 1st to clinch playoff berth, injury updates, Deebo Samuel returner

Taking a look at some of the relevant Niners news heading into Tuesday, Dec. 12:

- 49ers clinch a playoff berth (with some help)

- Injury updates to key Niners starters

- Deebo Samuel will keep helping special teams

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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49ers to continue using Deebo Samuel in return game

It's been a while since the 49ers used Deebo Samuel as a return specialist, 2021, to be exact. But, with fellow wide receiver and returner Ray-Ray McCloud (rib) on injured reserve, the need to have an explosive return specialist is clearly there.

The last two weeks, Samuel has helped out here on kickoff returns, while rookie wideout Ronnie Bell has handled punt-return duties.

Even when McCloud returns, it sounds as if Kyle Shanahan will continue using Samuel as a return specialist:

"It was also a decision we were thinking about going to regardless. Nothing against Ray-Ray or anyone. It was just more ways to get a special player like Deebo the ball in his hand. We’ve got to take that risk-reward every week. We’ve decided to do it the last two weeks and we’ll come up with that decision each week here going forward."

The risk-reward factor is there. Samuel has been electrifying with the ball in his hands this season, but he also has a notable injury history, too, one the Niners would be wise to avoid flirting with by exposing him to increased contact.

So far, Samuel has four kickoff returns with an average of 25.5 yards per takeout.

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