49ers on Friday: Samuel practices but questionable; Mitchell out; crisis at cornerback

SANTA CLARA — Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is on the verge of returning to the 49ers’ offense, one that won’t have running back Elijah Mitchell for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

The team’s most concerning issue might be at cornerback, however.

Either Ambry Thomas or fellow rookie cornerback Deommodore Lenoir could be in line to start against quarterback Joe Burrow and a trio of top-notch receivers when the 49ers (6-6) visit the Bengals (7-5)

That’s because cornerback Emmanuel Moseley won’t play because of an ankle injury, and his would-be replacement in the starting lineup, Dontae Johnson, is questionable because of a personal issue.

“You’re always concerned for any cornerback going against good, skill players and a quarterback like that,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday. “… You’d rather it be a different scenario but we still can overcome that.”

Shanahan pointed to how the defense’s supporting cast should help no matter who is at cornerback. Josh Norman figures to make his 11th start this season at the other cornerback spot.

Luq Barcoo and Saivion Smith are the practice-squad cornerbacks who could come up Saturday, perhaps if Moseley or others go on injured reserve as corresponding roster moves.


Samuel stretched with his teammates and was limited Friday in his first practice since a Nov. 28 groin strain.

“Feeling kinda good,” Samuel said. “I’ve been working all week long, playing it day by day, and that’s what we’ll continue to do up to Sunday.”

How close to 100 percent is he? “I wouldn’t put that out there. I’d say we continue to get better every day,” responded Samuel, adding that his status won’t be determined based on chilly weather (forecast: low 40s).

The injury that kept him out of Sunday’s loss at Seattle, which he saw on television from his home and was “one of the craziest games I’ve watched.”

“If Deebo hadn’t done anything all week, it wouldn’t be an option,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to push it every day to know if you can push it on Sunday. … We’ve been pushing him on the side. He was just not going against guys. I’ll find out tomorrow where they think he’s at, and if he’s good and won’t re-injure himself, then he’ll be up on Sunday.”


Mitchell (concussion, knee) essentially got ruled out by coaches Thursday because of his concussion and knee issues, Shanahan said. He’ll miss his fourth game of the season due to injury.

Jeff Wilson Jr. figures to start in place of Mitchell, as was the case in a Nov. 21 win at Jacksonville. JaMycal Hasty also could see significant action; he’s never started in his two-year career.

Shanahan said Wilson’s knee irritation during Sunday’s game did not act up this week.


— Linebackers Fred Warner (hamstring) and Marcell Harris (concussion) remain on track to return from a one-game absence, but Dre Greenlaw (groin) remains out.

— Defensive end Dee Ford didn’t participate but was seen walking toward the field as practice got underway. Ford hasn’t practiced this week and the 49ers have until Wednesday to activate him off injured reserve.

— Others ruled out were linebacker Dre Greenlaw (groin), defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf) and return specialist Trenton Cannon (concussion).


How is Trey Lance developing as a 49ers’ rookie? Well, he’s doing great at emulating opposing quarterbacks. He won another scout-team honor this week, for mimicking Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow. The 49ers have blocked interview requests for Lance since his Oct. 10 starting debut.

“He was sharp throwing the ball and did a really good job emulating their offense in what we asked, to go with the ball and do what Burrow does,” Shanahan said. “When (the scheduled play) wasn’t there, he did a good job making his own plays.”

Lance also earned scout-team honors in Week 2 ahead of the 49ers’ win against the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts.


Quarterback Joe Burrow (pinkie) was left off the injury report after fully participating in Friday’s practice ahead of Sunday’s 23rd career start.

Running back Joe Mixon (illness), wide receiver Tee Higgins (ankle) and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (foot) are questionable.

Linebacker Logan Wilson (shoulder) and running back Chris Evans (ankle) are out. Defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin (illness) and linebacker Markus Bailey (neck) are doubtful.

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