49ers optimistic DE Dee Ford, LB Azeez Al-Shaair will return vs. Cardinals

The 49ers defense was shorthanded in Chicago in part because of a pair of key players sitting in concussion protocol. Defensive end Dee Ford and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair both missed Sunday’s game, but head coach Kyle Shanahan on Monday said he doesn’t anticipate either player missing a second game.

San Francisco didn’t rule either player out in Friday’s injury report, listing both as ‘doubtful’ before downgrading them to ‘out’ Saturday.

“I am optimistic about them next week,” Shanahan told reporters on a conference call. “They were close enough that we took it all the way until Saturday. But usually when it’s not looking good on Friday, that’s why we put them down as doubtful. We held out hope that’s why he took them with us out, but still a long shot this week. Much better today and hopefully that will be cleared by Wednesday.”

Ford is second on the 49ers with 3.0 sacks this season, but they still managed to sack Bears QB Justin Fields four times without him. Defensive end Samson Ebukam saw additional work with Ford out and took advantage with his best game as a 49er and his first sack of the year.

Al-Shaair has seen an increased role since LB Dre Greenlaw went on injured reserve with a groin injury. The former undrafted free agent has acquitted himself well with more playing time. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles got the start in his place Sunday and played well with a couple tackles and a QB pressure.

The 49ers will need as many healthy defenders as possible to pull off an upset over the Arizona Cardinals, so Ford and Al-Shaair’s returns would be welcome for San Francisco.


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