By Joe Hawkes
SANTA CLARA, Calif — It seems like after every game this season, the San Francisco 49ers lose players to injuries. On Monday, the 49ers were hit with two-punch combo as starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle will miss multiple weeks with injuries a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
For Garoppolo, he aggravated his high right ankle sprain during San Francisco’s 37-27 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and is expected to be sidelined for six weeks or longer if the ankle requires surgery is the source told Schefter.
Garoppolo played poorly against Seattle, completing 11 of 16 passes for 84 yards with no touchdowns and one interception before leaving the game in the second half with San Francisco trailing 30-7. He was replaced by backup quarterback Nick Mullens, who finished the game completing 18 of 25 passes for 238 yards with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 128.4. With Garoppolo out for the foreseeable future, Mullens will return back to the starting lineup, a role he held when Garoppolo missed two games earlier his season with the same injury.
Mullens told reporters Sunday that he would be prepared to step in for Garoppolo if needed.
“Anytime you can get out there and bounce back from from my last start, it’s definitely going to create some confidence,” Mullens said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned just going through it all is that the NFL is tough. It’s all about what you do next. That’s why I tell myself pretty much every day, ‘It’s all about you do next.’ No matter if its good or bad, it’s all about what you do next.”
C.J. Beathard will serve as Mullens’ backup when the 49ers (4-4) host the Green Bay Packers (5-2) this Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers were optimistic that Kittle’s foot injury wasn’t serious after initial testing, but further evaluation revealed a broken bone that will sideline the All-Pro tight end eight weeks, a source said. With the 49ers at 4-4 and eight weeks left in the season, Kittle’s season is likely over.
Kittle’s injury happened two minutes after Garoppolo limped back to the locker room after he leaped to bring in a 25-yard pass from Mullens. Kittle hauled in the catch, but landed awkwardly and limped to the sideline immediately. A short time later, Kittle headed to the locker room.
Kittle, who signed a five-year $75 million contract extension during training camp, missed two games this season with MCL sprain in his left knee he suffered in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Backup tight end Ross Dwelley is expected to take Kittle’s place in the lineup. Dwelley caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mullens against the Seahawks, but the 49ers are hopeful that tight end Jordan Reed can return soon to help replace Kittle’s production. Reed has been out of action since Week 3 with a sprained knee.
The loss of Kittle is huge. Not only is he the team’s best offensive player, but vital to the 49ers’ running game. Without Kittle, San Francisco’s offense will be severely hindered.
Entering Sunday’s game, the 49ers had the highest salary cap value of players on injured reserve this season at $54.2 million according to Spotrac. With Garoppolo and Kittle likely heading to IR and join the likes of defensive end Nick Bosa (torn ACL), running back Raheem Mostert (high ankle sprain), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (strained hamstring) and cornerback Richard Sherman (strained calf), that value will increase.
In eight games this year, San Francisco has three different leading passers, four different leading rushers and for different leading receivers.