SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers have until Monday, Dec. 7 to decide whether or not rookie receiver DeAndre Smelter will play this season.
Head coach Jim Tomsula announced Nov. 16 that the team opened Smelter's practice window after beginning the year on the reserve/non-football injury list after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last November in Georgia Tech's upset of eighth-ranked Georgia.
Smelter's three week practice window officially closes on Monday, the day after the 49ers return from their trip to Chicago. The team remains mum on the chances of returning Smelter to game action a year removed from the injury. But in all likelihood, the 49ers will place Smelter on season-ending injured reserve, ending his season after such a significant injury.
"We would love to throw him out there," offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said. "We'd love to dress 65 guys and throw him out there and have success with him because I think he's going to have success. But we defer back to the medical people. I think he's made great strides. He looks pretty good out there in practice."
San Francisco's receiving corps is healthy and intact with Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, Jerome Simpson and DeAndrew White all available. The 49ers don't need another receiving option, giving them the luxury to wait until next season to begin Smelter's development, where he could get reps in preseason games next August.
"That's what's great about preseason games," Chryst said. "It's probably fair for DeAndre to give him some preseason games to ramp up into it instead of just throwing them in the mix because you want to have growth and you want to feel like the strides that he's making are real positive."
The 49ers selected Smelter in the fourth round after his draft stock fell because of the injury. At 6-foot-2, 227 pounds, Smelter has a unique skill set to the other receivers on the roster. He was able to show off his massive 11-inch hands while running routes on the side field and making one-handed catches with ease.
If not activated, San Francisco hopes getting three weeks' worth of practice under Smelter's belt can help the coaching staff determine how he would fit in the offense in 2016.
"Trying to find out then in practice, is he an outside receiver, does he have slot capabilities?" Chryst said. "But what we've found out is, I think we're excited to have him on the team. I think he's a hard worker. I think he's excited to be practicing and I'm really excited about his future."