Where the Buck Stops With 49ers Injuries

Football is a violent game. Players on every team get injured. But for the 49ers, injuries are becoming an all-too-common occurrence.
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And so it begins.

The San Francisco 49ers announced yesterday that Tarvarius Moore and Justin Skule have been sidelined with injuries. Moore went down in practice on Monday with a torn achilles and Skule with a torn ACL. Losing Moore and Skule comes on the heels of the team losing Jeff Wilson Jr. for 4-6 months due to a torn meniscus in his knee.

Football is a violent game. Players on every team get injured. But for the 49ers, injuries are becoming an all-too-common occurrence.

As the injuries have piled up year after year, the primary focus among many has been the 49ers strength and conditioning staff, but this issue started long before that group ever began working with the players.

Let me explain.

From 2008 through 2012, the 49ers were among the healthiest teams in the NFL, ranking near the top of the league for fewest games lost due to injury, averaging the sixth fewest from 2008-2010 and peaking in 2012 when the club suffered the fewest. That all changed starting in 2013. From 2013 through 2020 the 49ers have been ranked 23rd or worse in games lost to injury.

Scot McCloughan joined the 49ers as Vice President of Player Personnel in 2005 under Mike Nolan, and was promoted to the role of General Manager in 2008. McCloughan would hold this role until leaving the organization shortly before the 2010 draft.

When discussing the injury issue, it’s important to note McCloughan’s time with the 49ers. It was during this time that the foundation of the 2012 Super Bowl team was built. During McCloughan’s run and with a number of players he brought in still on the roster, the 49ers went through the healthy period mentioned earlier.

It should also be noted that during McCloughan’s tenure, Mark Uyeyama was brought into the organization’s strength and conditioning department. Uyeyama would eventually go on to become the head strength and conditioning coach and work for the team until the 2017.

It was under Uyeyama’s guidance that the 49ers would lose the fewest games due to injury in the league in 2012.

So why did things take a downturn in 2013? That happened to be the 49ers third full year with Trent Baalke running the personnel department. Baalke was well known for taking risks on draft picks and veterans that were productive but also had a history of injury. This played a large role in the downturn of the 49ers fortunes with regards to player injuries, and losses on the field which led to Baakle being fired following the 2016 season.

Hiring Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch has done nothing to help turn around injury problem for the franchise.

Shortly after Lynch and Shanahan took over in 2017, they chose to release the entire strength and conditioning staff. After a number of injuries sunk the team during the first two seasons of their tenure, the duo again decided to make major changes to this group and the injuries have continued.

The continuation of the injury issue is not just bad luck.

Under Shanahan and Lynch, the 49ers have continued to make many of the same mistakes with player personnel as their predecessor. Just as happened under Baalke, the 49ers have continued to bring in players with significant injury histories and expected things to change. Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, Nick Bosa, Jason Verrett, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are just a few of players that have fall into this category.

In order to improve on the injury front, the 49er will need to spend the next few years focusing on acquiring players with fewer health risks. This was something that seemed to be a priority for them early in the offseason, but old habits die hard and the team brought back a number of veteran free agents with questionable injury histories. This continued on in the draft with the selections of Trey Sermon and Talanoa Hufanga. While Sermon and Hufanga definitely have very unique skill sets, they also bring with them a laundry list of injury concerns.

As many have heard, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. This is the space in which the 49ers have been operating for the better part of eight years now. Until the 49ers front office and coaching staff decides to change, expect the injuries to keep coming.

What ever happened to Mark Uyeyama?

After being released by the 49ers, Uyeyama became the Minnesota Vikings strength and conditioning coach. During his four-year tenure with the Vikings, the organization finished no worse than 16th in games lost due to injury.