The 49ers are planning to activate Samuel from the non-football injury list on Saturday, a league source told ESPN, making him eligible to return to practice and potentially play in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 13.
NBC Sports Bay Area first reported Samuel’s activation.
Samuel suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot while working out with teammates in Nashville in mid-June. He had surgery soon after in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and began training camp on the non-football injury list.
The initial timeline for a return was believed to be about 12 weeks, but Samuel and the Niners have maintained hope that it would be closer to 10 weeks and he would be available for the opener against Arizona.
While it remains to be seen whether Samuel will indeed practice next week and/or play against the Cardinals, Saturday’s move was necessary to ensure that he would at least be allowed to do so. Had Samuel remained on the non-football injury list at the time of Saturday’s cutdown to the 53-man roster, he would have had to miss the first six weeks of the season.
The sooner Samuel can return, the better for the Niners, who have faced a litany of injuries at the position during camp. Rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk is dealing with a hamstring strain, though he is expected back soon, and the team has already placed receivers Jalen Hurd, Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson on injured reserve with knee ailments. In addition, veteran Travis Benjamin opted out of the season before camp began because of coronavirus concerns.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this week that he hoped Samuel and Aiyuk would be able to return to practice in the run-up to the opener.
Samuel emerged as one of San Francisco’s primary offensive weapons as a rookie in 2019. He posted 57 catches for 802 yards and three touchdowns, adding 159 yards and three more scores rushing.