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Deebo Samuel has high ankle sprain and MCL sprain, returns to light practice in Week 16 [UDPATE]

We break down the news that Deebo Samuel has a high ankle sprain injury. What it means for the rest of the regular season.

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts as he is carted off after an apparent injury during an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Wednesday Dec 21 update: Kyle Shanahan met with 49ers media on Tuesday heading into Week 16 and said, per Nick Wagoner, “I think this week maybe there’d be a chance if we were that desperate, so I’m not even looking into it this week and we’ll see how he is next (week).” On Wednesday, Samuel was back at practice doing “some light work on the side during early part of open portion of practice.” It seems unlikely the 49ers will send him out in Week 16 or 17 with the division locked up, but maybe he gets a few snaps in Week 18 to shake off some rust.

Tuesday PM update: Head coach Kyle Shanahan told the 49ers beat writers that wide receiver Deebo Samuel could return sooner than many anticipated. Shanahan said he would miss “three-ish weeks” with ankle and knee issues. This suggests they are not quite as significant high ankle and MCL sprain injuries. They’re still notable, but normally those can result in a month or more absence.

Monday PM update: Deebo Samuel is also dealing with an MCL sprain to go along with his ankle injury, per Jennifer Chan. It doesn’t appear that will create further issues since he’ll rest and rehab both injuries concurrently. Chan noted that Deebo could still return during the regular season.

The San Francisco 49ers crushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14 and can clinch the NFC West title on Thursday when they face the Seattle Seahawks to open Week 15. They are playing incredibly well, but they likely will have to play the rest of their season without wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

The 49ers wide receiver suffered an ankle injury that head coach Kyle Shanahan described after the game as “‘most likely’ a high ankle sprain,” per beat writer Eric Branch. Samuel will undergo further testing on Monday, but given how he was wrenched on the play, it would be surprising if it was anything less.

A high ankle sprain likely means Deebo Samuel will not be playing again until the playoffs, assuming the 49ers don’t blow their division lead. A high ankle sprain usually requires at least a four-to-six week recovery timeline if it does not require surgery. Samuel will get an MRI on Monday, which will determine if there is any further ligament damage. Assuming that is not the case, the four-to-six week timeframe will be how this is assessed.

The 49ers have four games remaining, which means the earliest return would likely be for the wild card round. With only one bye in each conference, the 49ers are unlikely to equal the 12-1 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC standings. That leaves them playing in the first round the week after the regular season ends. That could be when we see Deebo Samuel back on the field.