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Why the 49ers are Playing Their Starters in the Preseason Finale

Playing all of the starters in the preseason finale can be a gamble due to potential injuries, but Kyle Shanahan explains why the 49ers benefit from it.

The 49ers are planning to play all of their starters in the preseason finale versus the Chargers.

Typically, the third game of the preseason throughout the history of the NFL has always been viewed as the "dress rehearsal" game. It acts as a light warmup to the regular season as opposed to just throwing the starters into the deep end from the jump.

But a team that is as established as the 49ers arguably doesn't need that. Playing all of the starters is a real gamble due to potential injuries, but that is something Kyle Shanahan isn't overthinking. In fact, he views this as a great benefit to his starters to play in the final preseason game.

“It's all about having guys ready to play a real football game," said Shanahan. "And there's so much that goes into mentally being ready, physically being ready. I mean, you can't have any hesitation in this game. When Week 1 starts, people see that and you can lose games very fast just being a little bit off. You kind of build that with experience over your career, but I've had guys that I've sat for the whole preseason games and then fumble their first play that they get in and then you kick yourself in the butt for it. It's just like, what was I doing?"

I think Shanahan is absolutely making the right call here. There needs to be a warm up period for his starters, especially since the 49ers typically start off the regular season slow. The preseason finale versus the Chargers has the hope that the starters can kickstart a bit of momentum so that they aren't initially sandbagging it in Week 1 of the regular season.

Considering that the 49ers are on the road to start the season against a pretty good Steelers team, it makes it all the more crucial for the starters to get some action. However, Shanahan fully acknowledges the risks of a starter getting hurt. It's a risk he is willing to take and one that is necessary.

"You've also played guys and they get hurt and you're like, what the hell was I thinking? So, there's zero absolutes in any of it," said Shanahan. "That's why I don't sit here and tell you guys what we're doing way in advance. I look at each thing day to day. I look at our practices, I look at our reps, I look at the individual how he is and where he's at in his career, how he is just with the week and where he is in terms of being ready for Week 1. All that stuff goes into it and you don't really know until it's over what the right decision was. So, that's why it's not always fun to make those decisions. But I also know when you just sit everyone and you don't practice football, you do your guys a pretty big disservice.”

Playing the starters never became a question until the Rams did it under Sean McVay. While I don't blame any head coach for going that route as they don't want to be kicking themselves after getting a key player hurt. But like Shanahan said, there's a lot of details that go into it with every specific player. A handful of starters on the 49ers have been taking plenty of rest days throughout training camp, so this is the moment for them to get a few series to wake themselves up and be better prepared for the tumultuous regular season.