In last week’s divisional round game against the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel exited early with a shoulder injury and was unable to return to the field, putting his status for the NFC Championship in question. Samuel is off the injury report and will play on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, with a ticket to Super Bowl LVIII on the line.
Samuel’s role may extend further than playing wide receiver and we could see him returning kickoffs. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that Samuel “might” return kickoffs.
“I don’t know. We haven’t thought about that yet,” Shanahan said on Friday (via NBC Sports).
So far this season, Samuel has six kick returns for 154 yards. Last season, he did not have any kick returns and in 2021, he had three kick returns for 75 yards.
In college, he had four kickoff return touchdowns, ending his career at South Carolina first in kick return average (29) and first in kick returns for touchdowns.
Shanahan said Samuel will not be limited due to the previous injury and he will not risk any more damage to the shoulder.
Before going down with the injury last week, Samuel had two receptions for 24 yards. In the 2023 regular season, he had 60 receptions for 892 yards, averaging 14.9 yards per catch, with seven touchdowns.
Just having Samuel on the field is huge for the 49ers, who have not won a game this season that Samuel didn’t participate in and they’ve also seen notable dropoffs in scoring without him. The explosive receiver had 60 catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2023 season. He added another five touchdowns on the ground with 225 rushing yards.