SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Only two weeks after returning from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell suffered a similar injury to his left knee.
Mitchell departed Sunday’s 13-0 win over the New Orleans Saints in the third quarter with what the Niners believe is a sprained MCL in his left knee. He’s scheduled for further testing on Monday. Mitchell was originally designated as questionable to return, but the Niners ruled him out near the end of the quarter.
The first (right) knee sprain happened in a Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears and kept Mitchell out until a Week 10 win against the Los Angeles Chargers. Unlike last time, however, the Niners and Mitchell are optimistic that though he could miss some time, this won’t last as long.
Starter Christian McCaffrey and third-string running back Jordan Mason filled in for Mitchell the rest of the way, though McCaffrey was dealing with what coach Kyle Shanahan called “knee irritation.”
“We’ll see how Elijah goes,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Most likely Elijah will be out a little bit and that will give opportunities for those [other] guys.”
Mitchell suffered the injury on a first-down carry for no gain with 13 minutes, 53 seconds left in the third quarter. He said after the game that he got twisted up on the play but didn’t believe the injury was as serious as the one he suffered in Chicago.
At the time of his departure, 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 close the victory out late with five attempts for 25 yards.
Shanahan said McCaffrey’s knee irritation happened during the game, adding afterward, “Hopefully, Christian will be all right, too.”
If, as expected, Mitchell misses a bit of time, Shanahan expressed confidence in Mason and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who was a pregame inactive, to help pick up the slack. The Niners’ faith in that duo was evident in their trade-deadline deal sending Jeff Wilson Jr. to the Miami Dolphins, who just so happen to be next on the Niners’ schedule.
“I think JP (Mason) came in there and did a really good job there at the end,” Shanahan said. “They had every single person up there trying to stop the run, and I think you guys saw how hard-nosed he is and how he ran it and was able to keep us out there on the field and not give it back … Then Ty, we’ve been wanting to get Ty up.”
About two minutes after Mitchell’s injury, the 49ers narrowly avoided another loss to their backfield when Saints defensive lineman Malcolm Roach hit quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on his lower left leg as Garoppolo fired a pass to receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Garoppolo was in obvious pain and upset with Roach, who quickly ran to his sideline after he was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
“It’s football, but you’ve got to be smart as players, look out for one another,” Garoppolo said. “There’s no place for that. I’m all right, a little sore but nothing bad.”
Shanahan indicated that Garoppolo seemed to come out of the game OK but he would get closer inspection on Monday morning to ensure there wasn’t any meaningful injuries to his quarterback.
“He took some hits today,” Shanahan said. “I don’t have anything exactly on him. But I know he’s sorer than usual. So, we’ll check him up in here and see how he is tomorrow. He had a very gutty performance.”
Although rookie backup Brock Purdy warmed up briefly, Garoppolo stayed in the game and finished 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 was not a high ankle sprain, which offered hope Burford could return sooner than later. Daniel Brunskill replaced Burford.
49ers believe RB Elijah Mitchell sprained MCL in left knee