SANTA CLARA — Deebo Samuel, who is dealing with a left shoulder injury, provided some encouraging signs on Wednesday in his progress toward returning to action this week.
The wide receiver did not participate in the 49ers' practice on Wednesday, but his chances of playing in the NFC Championship Game appear to be trending in a positive direction.
With the football tucked under his left arm, Samuel ran back and forth along the practice field during the period at the start of practice as the media was allowed to observe the 49ers' players practicing.
Samuel suffered a shoulder injury Saturday night that limited him to just nine games in the 49ers' 24-21 win over the Green Bay Packers in an NFC round-robin playoff game.
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk expressed optimism when asked if he thought Samuel would be able to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
“Personally,” Ayuk said. “But (I will) continue to pray for him that he will get better throughout the week and be with us to finish the job.”
Earlier this season, Samuel missed nearly three full games with a shoulder injury, and the 49ers went 0-3 in those games with losses to the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.
In the playoffs, the 49ers were able to beat the Packers despite Samuel being a spectator for most of the game.
Jauan Jennings and Chris Conley played Samuel with Ray-Ray McCloud mostly taking Jennings' spot as the slot receiver.
Aiyuk said he believes the wide receiver group is now better equipped to continue and produce if Samuel is unavailable.
Conley had a key 17-yard reception on the 49ers' game-winning drive, while Jennings capitalized on his extended playing time with five receptions for 61 yards after catching just 19 passes for 265 yards in the regular season.
“I feel like this is his moment,” Aiyuk said of Jennings. “This is what he was built for; this is what he was built for. So if the opportunity comes I'm ready to ride with him.”
“All the work we've put in, that's what it's for. I'm sure everyone will step up and be ready.”
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