For 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, the gnawing feeling started last Sunday, when he realized he’d be without a significant part of his depth chart the following week.
But on Monday, he was back to work with his team at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, and when Wednesday’s practice rolled around, he could tell a difference among the part of the roster he had left.
“Then when the players came in Wednesday, it was just nice because they were totally different than how they were Monday,” Shanahan told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America. “It was just cool when we got to practice on Wednesday. Our guys were over it by then and then each practice they gained more confidence. You start to see some of the guys we have on our team. The depth. The attitude. I better try and figure out the right way to say this. But it almost ends where anytime you turn on the TV, everyone’s talking about injuries and how you got no chance with all the guys we’re missing. Our guys—and it was true, we did have some injuries and the guys didn’t feel great about going back to play there again—you try to put all that in perspective with the guys.
“I was like, hey, this NFL’s a tough league. If we don’t change our mindset on this, we’re gonna get embarrassed. You start that on Wednesday and you try and just address it, address the elephant in the room so you can get over it.”
Not only did they lose defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to season-ending ACLs last week, but they entered the second game of their East Coast trip without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, and several other key parts. It hardly showed in the result, as they thrashed the Giants yesterday the same way they did the Jets the previous week (a combined 67-22).
It wasn’t without hurdles, as they lost Kittle-replacement Jordan Reed during the game, only to see tight end Ross Dwelley step up, the same way backup quarterback Nick Mullens and so many other backups did.
“It was a good learning experience for everyone,” Shanahan said. “I just learned . . . our team likes football. People kinda counted us out, and that’s how we felt a lot last year. It wasn’t till we were about 7-0 I feel like people started taking us seriously. In football, you never stay the same; you’re always a different team. You go through things together. But our depth and our love of the game—I think those things really helped us through a tough time.”
That kind of resilience will pay off once some of the regulars get well, as the 2-1 49ers try to recover from a disastrous run of injuries so early in the season.