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Why the 49ers Have to Lighten the Loads for Samuel and Kittle

This past week, Samuel essentially carried the 49ers to a win over the Bears.

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have a conundrum.

They need every win they can get because they're 3-4. And the more they give the ball to Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, the more likely they are to win.

But Samuel and Kittle both have calf injuries, and calves are connected to Achilles' tendons. So the more those two play, the more likely they are to reaggravate their calf injuries or turn them into something much worse.

This past week, Samuel essentially carried the 49ers to a win over the Bears -- he was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Week. The 49ers would not have won without him, and had they loss, their season probably would have been over. So Samuel did what he had to do.

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But in the process, he reaggravated his calf injury, and hasn't practiced yet this week. So the win came with a price.

If Samuel's injury gets worse and he goes down for an extended stretch, the 49ers will be in trouble. Same goes for Kittle. Managing their workload will be a difficult balance for Kyle Shanahan.

"I think we're dealing with an Achilles/calf thing and that's also because of how explosive he is," Shanahan said of Samuel recently. "That happens with explosive players who are especially not in the 170s. I think we deal that with Deebo. When you have the size of him and you’re as explosive as you are, things do happen. 

"I used to have it with Julio Jones. Not many people who are 230 can run 4.3, so the impact of that power and size putting it into the ground every play, there’s always a higher risk of that type of stuff. So yeah, you have to be concerned with that, but Kittle does take care of himself. I think he got off to a rough start this year and tried to play through some stuff and it's been lingering. Hopefully this break helped him and hopefully we'll have some better luck getting back.”

All due respect to Shanahan, but luck is only half of it. The 49ers also need a plan.