Good news on the injury front for the San Francisco 49ers could be bad news for the Minnesota Vikings, their NFC divisional round opponent on Saturday.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander (torn pectoral), defensive end Dee Ford (quad/hamstring), safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and right guard Mike Person (neck) are all on track to return for San Francisco’s first playoff game in six years.
Ford, who is listed as questionable on the injury report, is likely to need some pregame testing before he’s pronounced fit to play.
Alexander will be activated off injured reserve before the 1 p.m. Friday deadline for roster moves, head coach Kyle Shanahan said. A corresponding move to make room on the roster will need to be made, but Alexander, who wore a blue no-contact jersey throughout this week’s practices, is expected to play for the first time since sustaining the injury on Oct. 31.
His return could not only give the 49ers a physical boost, but an emotional one as well.
“Having Kwon is exciting,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He brings a lot of juice, a lot of energy. Even in practice, if there’s a lull in practice, he’s the first to speak up to get guys going. From a coach’s view, it’s very beneficial to have a guy who regardless, whether it’s bad or good, his voice is projecting positive energy and trying to get people rolling.
“To have Kwon, aside from the player, just from the juice and the energy he brings and what he does for everybody around him, is really priceless.”
With the 49ers getting a first-round bye after earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs, 52 of 53 players were present Thursday for the final practice of the week. Linebacker Elijah Lee sat out with an illness.
Defensive lineman Kentavius Street (knee), Ford and Person were limited in practice this week, but Person will play, and Street is questionable. Tartt, who has not played since Week 13, avoided the injury report altogether. Alexander has not been on the injury report because he is not officially back on the roster yet.
Regarding Ford, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury aggravated in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints, Shanahan said the team is trying to be cautious.
“We did wait longer. We’re trying to be smarter about it, and I think Dee is also,” Shanahan said. “It’s tough for athletes in these situations. They want to play no matter what. When we look back at New Orleans, I think Dee was a little bit tight before the game. He knows how much we’re counting on him to go out. He’s not going to come up and just say, ‘Hey coach, I’m a little tight.’ No one totally knows. He thought he could go.”