Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
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Cross your fingers

One of the most gut-wrenching things the San Francisco 49ers had to deal with in the Super Bowl (besides the loss) was the injury of linebacker Dre Greenlaw to a ruptured Achilles. Forget the Super Bowl, now it was if Greenlaw would be ready for the 2024 season.

Turns out, that might be a possibility. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch caught up with Dr. Kenneth Jung, a foot and ankle surgeon who is also a consultant to the Los Angeles Rams. Jung says that a return by Week 1 is a definite possibility:

“We can confidently tell (patients) that at six months, that’s a reasonable amount of time to be back,” said Jung, who practices at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

“Of course, there are no absolutes. It depends a lot on how well he’s rehabbing and how well he gains his strength back.”

Six months would put Greenlaw somewhere in the middle-end of August, right when Week 1 would roll around.

Of course, being in shape and being in football shape are completely different. If Greenlaw is cleared by then or even a few weeks prior, it’s fair to not expect him to return to his dominant ways on the field until he gets a bit of time under him.

The other thing to realize is—as Jung said— that these injuries vary from person to person, and regardless of rehab, everyone’s body is different. New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who Branch pointed out) was someone many thought may be back sometime during the season after tearing his Achilles a few plays into Week 1, but once the Jets went down the drain, they decided to call it a season with him.

The 49ers take a step back on defense without Greenlaw as he’s the respected enforcer of the unit. He is vital in the run defense and also punishing any pass catchers that come into his zip code.

As to what the 49ers do this offseason in case Greenlaw suffers a setback remains a question. I see some of you suggest them bring back former linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair since he left in 2023 for a one year deal with the Tennessee Titans. That would work out great except Al-Shaair may find a multi-year deal somewhere else where he’d get more playing time. While he was a hell of a backup during his time in San Francisco, he was the definition of an embarrassment of riches. He was third man on the depth chart and it was obvious as he developed he became too good (and expensive) to be a backup. Al-Shaair could get paid on day one of free agency in March and that’s way too early for the 49ers to know anything on if Greenlaw is making progress or if an insurance plan is needed.

At least the prognosis seems promising for Greenlaw to be on the field by Week 1. Cross your fingers.

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