SANTA CLARA – Cut a year ago from 49ers camp, Colton McKivitz is now a must as the starting right tackle.
That’s the term coach Kyle Shanahan used Sunday to explain why McKivitiz joined nearly 20 front-line players from suiting up in a 17-7 preseason win at Minnesota.
What does that say about Mike McGlinchey’s recovery timeline from a knee problem that sidelined him last week since the preseason opener against Green Bay?
“It just says he’s not healthy right now,” Shanahan said on a media conference call. “We’ll test it next week and see how it is.”
So McKivitz will start Thursday’s preseason finale in Houston, along with most of those slated for the season-opening lineup Sept. 11 in Chicago, including quarterback Trey Lance.
Until then, McGlinchey can reprise his role as the starting right tackle as long as his knee cooperates, along with repairing the quadriceps that sidelined him after midseason last year.
McKivitz, a 2020 fifth-round pick, was shocked when he was cut last year, recalling last week how “I learned the urgency of how quickly you have to learn and adapt and get better in this league, or you’ll find your way sooner than you think.”
He spent the season on the practice squad before an emergency start in place of left tackle Trent Williams in the regular-season finale win at Los Angeles.
If tackle isn’t the 49ers’ biggest health crisis, it lies among their injured quarterbacks. Expected to return to practice Monday, however, are Emmanuel Moseley (hamstring), Dontae Johnson (ribs) and possibly Ambry Thomas (knee). Shanahan said cornerback Charvarius Ward (groin) should be back next week after the preseason finale, but there was no update on safety Jimmie Ward, who pulled a hamstring a week ago.
Others expected to return to practice are defensive tackle Arik Armstead (knee), linebacker Curtis Robinson (groin), offensive lineman Jaylon Moore (foot) and tight end Charlie Woerner (adductor).
Casualties from Saturday’s game were wide receiver Austin Mack (hamstring; out several weeks) and offensive tackle Sam Schlueter (knee tendinitis; day-to-day).
Without Lance playing, the 49ers put Nate Sudfeld and Brock Purdy in a quarterback rotation. Shanahan’s review of each was positive.
On Sudfeld: “Nate has done a good job, so I don’t think (conservative passing) was the case at all. … You want him to make the right play that you call, based on the coverage they see and based on how the pass rush is, based on people beating the coverage players and based on getting the ball in the spot. right with the time of the show. So I thought Nate had a good camp, like all the other quarterbacks, nobody’s perfect, but trying to do it every game.”
On Purdy, drafted last at No. 262 after four years at Iowa State: “Brock was a four-year starter in the Big Ten, and I think it’s not talked about enough, how much experience that is for someone. For him to have that many games under his belt, that’s a lot of football, and I know it’s college football, but that’s still a lot of pressure from a freshman going into his senior year. So Brock has played a lot of quarterback and he’s come here and he hasn’t let the big lights or being around NFL players change that. He’s been the same guy you’ve seen on tape and it’s allowed him to have a chance to improve.”
Guards Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford were the only Week 1 starters projected to face the Vikings’ defense, and they did so with mixed results.
“They both made some mistakes and then it was good to see them both come back and rebound there in the second quarter,” Shanahan said.
Another young guard who has been a nice watch: undrafted rookie Jason Poe.
“Every time he goes out there and has his opportunities, he makes some good plays. The plays that stand out to me is how physical he is on the edge when he pulls back and things like that,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s a normal fan, but he’s a competitive guy who does a lot every play. He’s done that since he’s been here. And he’s given himself a chance to be in this discussion here at the end.”