SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell has made a habit of playing through injuries during his rookie season. If the Niners’ current hopes come to fruition, this week will be no different for Mitchell, who is dealing with a fractured finger that required surgery on Tuesday.
The injury kept Mitchell out of Wednesday’s practice, but coach Kyle Shanahan still expressed optimism that Mitchell would be available Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He just had [the procedure] yesterday,” Shanahan said. “Today, it’s not good enough to practice. I think he’ll go Sunday, but we’ve got to see it day to day.”
Coming off Monday night’s 31-10 win against the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers are working on a short week before a long flight to Jacksonville on Friday. Because of that, Shanahan has been unable to see Mitchell and said Tuesday he didn’t know which finger Mitchell broke.
Regardless, Shanahan has indicated that for Mitchell to play against the Jaguars, it will be more about the team’s ability to prevent further damage to the finger.
“It sounded like they were pretty optimistic that he’ll be all right,” Shanahan said. “But they’ve got to put a pin in it, see how it fits and if they can just protect it.”
Nine games into the season, Mitchell has firmly established himself as the team’s top running back. In his seven games, Mitchell leads the 49ers in carries (116) and rushing yards (560), and his 80 rushing yards per game average is fifth in the NFL.
Along the way, Mitchell has showed a knack for playing through some bumps and bruises.
After suffering a rib injury against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 31, Mitchell was questionable the following week against Arizona but played in that game. In September, Mitchell suffered a shoulder injury early in a Week 2 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. When the team’s other running backs suffered ensuing injuries, Mitchell returned and finished the game.
That toughness has helped Mitchell quickly ascend from sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Louisiana to the Niners’ most trusted running back and is why the team remains optimistic he will play against Jacksonville.
“He’s shown us just in all the aspects, since he’s gotten here, that he’s got what it takes to be an NFL running back in terms of he’s got the talent, the vision, the ability,” Shanahan said. “But also the toughness of playing through all this stuff. We usually don’t know until after the game … because he doesn’t complain about much. He just goes to work and some guys play with injuries, but the key to playing with injuries is not letting the injuries make you worse. And even when he’s played through some stuff, you don’t notice it out there by his play.”
With Mitchell working his way through his latest injury, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Trey Sermon are the Niners’ other options at running back. Fellow back JaMycal Hasty is unlikely to play this week because of an ankle injury.