SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Just two weeks after returning from a medial collateral ligament sprain 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 believe was an MCL sprain in his left knee. He is due to undergo further tests on Monday. Mitchell was initially flagged as doubtful to return, but the Niners ruled him out late in the quarter.
The first (right) knee sprain occurred in a Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears and held Mitchell back until a Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Unlike last time, however, the Niners and Mitchell are optimistic that while he might miss some time, it won’t last as long.
Starter Christian McCaffrey and third-string running back Jordan Mason replaced Mitchell the rest of the way, although McCaffrey had to deal with what coach Kyle Shanahan called “knee irritation”.
“We’ll see how Elijah is doing,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Most likely Elijah will be out for a bit and that will give opportunities to those [other] guys.”
Mitchell was injured on a scoreless first down with 13 minutes and 53 seconds left in the third quarter. He said after the game that he was upset by the game, but did not believe the injury was as serious as the one he suffered in Chicago.
When he left, 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 wrap up the win late with five attempts for 25 yards.
Shanahan said McCaffrey’s knee irritation occurred during the match, adding afterwards, “I hope Christian is okay too.”
If, as expected, Mitchell misses some time, Shanahan trusted Mason and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who was inactive before the game, to help pick up the slack. The Niners’ faith in this duo was evident in their trade delay deal sending Jeff Wilson Jr. to the Miami Dolphins, who happen to be next on the Niners’ schedule.
“I think JP (Mason) came in there and did a really good job at the end,” Shanahan said. “They had every single person up there trying to stop the run, and I think you saw how intractable he is and how he ran it and was able to keep us on the ground and not on it. give back… So Ty, we wanted to get Ty up.”
About two minutes after Mitchell’s injury, the 49ers narrowly avoided another loss in their backfield when Saints defensive lineman Malcolm Roach hit quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on his left leg as Garoppolo fired a passes to receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Garoppolo was in obvious pain and upset with Roach, who quickly ran to his touchline after being flagged for unnecessary roughing.
“It’s football, but you have to be smart as players, watch out for each other,” Garoppolo said. “There’s no room for that. I’m fine, a little sore but nothing serious.”
Shanahan said Garoppolo appeared to be coming out of the game well, but would do a closer inspection Monday morning to make sure there were no significant injuries to his quarterback.
“He took a few hits today,” Shanahan said. “I don’t have anything exactly on him. But I know he’s in more pain than usual. So we’ll check him out here and see how he’s doing tomorrow. He had a very brave performance.”
Although rookie backup Brock Purdy briefly warmed up, Garoppolo stayed in the game and went 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 wasn’t a sprained ankle, raising hopes Burford could return sooner rather than later. Daniel Brunskill replaced Burford.
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