SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Just two weeks after returning from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell suffered a similar injury to his left knee.
Mitchell left Sunday’s 13-0 win over the New Orleans Saints in the third quarter with what the Niners say is a sprained MCL in his left knee. He is scheduled for further testing on Monday. Mitchell was originally designated as questionable to return, but the Niners ruled him out by the end of the quarter.
The first (right) knee sprain occurred during a Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears and kept Mitchell out until a Week 10 win against the Los Angeles Chargers. However, unlike last time, the Niners and Mitchell are optimistic that while he could spare some time, it won’t last that long.
Starter Christian McCaffrey and third-string running back Jordan Mason filled in for Mitchell the rest of the way, though McCaffrey was dealing with what coach Kyle Shanahan called “knee irritation.”
“We’ll see how Elijah goes,” said coach Kyle Shanahan. “Most likely Elijah will be a bit out and that will give them opportunities [other] guys.”
Mitchell suffered the injury on a no-win first-down carry with 13 minutes and 53 seconds left in the third quarter. He said after the game that he was confused by the game but did not believe the injury was as serious as the one he received in Chicago.
At the time of his departure, Mitchell had seven carries for 35 yards and two catches for 8 yards. McCaffrey finished with 11 carries for 32 yards and four catches for 17 yards. Mason helped seal the win late with five tries for 25 yards.
Shanahan said McCaffrey’s knee irritation showed up during the game, later adding, “Hopefully Christian will be okay too.”
When, as expected, Mitchell misses some time, Shanahan expressed confidence in Mason and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who was inactive pregame, to pick up the slack. The Niners’ confidence in that duo was evident in their deal with the trade deadline, allowing Jeff Wilson Jr. was sent to the Miami Dolphins, who happen to be next on the Niners’ schedule.
“I think JP (Mason) came in there and did really well there at the end,” said Shanahan. “They had everyone up there trying to stop the run, and I think you guys saw how persistent he is and how he did it and was able to keep us on the field and not give back… Dan Ty, we Ty wanted to get up already.”
About two minutes after Mitchell’s injury, the 49ers narrowly avoided another loss in their backfield when Saints defenseman Malcolm Roach hit quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on the lower left leg when Garoppolo fired a pass at receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Garoppolo was clearly in pain and angry with Roach, who quickly ran to his touchline after being flagged for unnecessary roughness.
“It’s football, but you have to be smart as players, look out for each other,” said Garoppolo. ‘There’s no room for that. I feel good, a little sore, but nothing bad.’
Shanahan indicated that Garoppolo appeared to be coming out of the game well, but he would undergo a closer inspection Monday morning to make sure his quarterback had no significant injuries.
“He took some beating today,” said Shanahan. “I don’t exactly have anything on him. But I know he’s in more pain than usual. So we’ll check on him here and see how he’s doing tomorrow.
Although rookie backup Brock Purdy briefly warmed up, Garoppolo stayed in the game and finished 26-of-37 for 221 yards and a touchdown.
Elsewhere on the injury front, starting right guard Spencer Burford suffered a sprained right ankle that left him in a walking boot after the game. Shanahan said it was not a high ankle sprain, offering hope that Burford could return as soon as possible. Daniel Brunskill replaced Burford.