San Francisco 49ers Expect WR Samuel Back Before End of Season

The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-7 in Week 14, but what initially appeared to be a devastating injury to star wide receiver Deebo Samuel made it difficult to feel too good about it. Thankfully, the 49ers have had plenty of good news in the hours since. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reports Samuel has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL and sprained ankle and is expected to return at some point in the regular season. Samuel went down in apparent agony in the first half of Sunday's game, his ankle and knee twisting underneath a Buccaneers tackler. He totalled 64 yards and a touchdown on eight touches before his exit.

Samuel's injury timeline is great news given how severe the injury initially appeared, but it's still likely to be a major setback in what has been a frustrating season for the fourth-year pass catcher. After exploding for 87.8 receiving yards per game at an amazing 11.6 yards per target in 2021, Samuel is down to 51.0 receiving yards per game and 6.7 yards per target in his 12 games this season. Barring a miraculous recovery, he's unlikely to improve on those numbers when he returns.

Samuel joined the 49ers as their 36th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was productive when available in his first two seasons, compiling 1193 receiving yards in 22 appearances, but he emerged as one of the league's most unique offensive weapons when the 49ers elected to begin using him as a runner in 2021. He has totalled an impressive 593 yards and 11 touchdowns at an efficient 5.9 yards per attempt on the ground in his last 28 games.
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