SANTA CLARA — Jalen Hurd remains the 49ers’ most mysterious man for the third time in a row.
One day this month, he may be allowed to stay for a full workout, race his six-foot-tall body past defenders and put on the show everyone has been eagerly awaiting for two years.
That’s the plan.
Meanwhile, he may only participate in wide receiver and offensive drills in his No. 14 uniform, and he does so without a brace on his surgically repaired knee.
Once those warmups are done, Hurd trots out to side court with strength coach Dustin Perry. A year ago, Hurd tore his anterior cruciate ligament while team practice was going on without him.
In this camp, he walks to the side, but he also does other performance moves, such as tying a bungee-style rope around his waist on Monday and practicing his first steps off the leash.
“He’s making routes in the air and trying to get things in,” Shanahan said. “We are only trying to calm him down with the injuries he has experienced and his back problems.
“We have a plan to try and get him into team practice soon. Hopefully he stays on track.”
So it is with the secret weapon of the 49ers.
In an interview with NBC Sports’ Peter King last week, Shanahan called Hurd’s pick as a “great X-factor” on this team.
“Honestly, he’s probably mine on this team too. He needs to stay healthy so he can play a big part here,” Shanahan told King’s . Football morning in America column. “Your heart breaks and you get frustrated knowing how great he would be on the attack. But he’s just as frustrated. It would be a great bonus to have him.”
Hurd trained again on Monday with fellow wide receivers in offensive drills, having rested the previous two workouts for his knee recovery.
By scoring two touchdowns in his 2019 exhibition debut against the Dallas Cowboys — August 9 is the two-year anniversary — he almost created a mythical character in 49ers lore. Fans were stunned by visions of Hurd, who went on to wear No. 17, and yards alongside Kittle, who set a 2018 record for receiving yards through a tight end.
Then came a back injury that wiped out Hurd’s rookie year — he tried to bounce back in October before performing injured and missing the Super Bowl run — and the ACL tear followed last year’s camp’s second practice.
Hurd has not spoken to the media for nearly two years, shielded by his injury status. He looks cheerful and encouraged this time with full understanding that he doesn’t take his health for granted.
Injuries also dogged his college career, including a concussion, as he transitioned from a Tennessee backtrack to a Baylor-wide receiver, then a 2019 third-round draft pick.
The 49ers’ quest is slow for wide receivers behind starters Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, though Mohamed Sanu was a first-week star of the camp.
Without Hurd and Jauan Jennings (COVID reserve list), the 49ers need to see more of Richie James, River Cracraft, Travis Benjamin, Kevin White and Austin Watkins Jr.
James and White caught touchdown passes from Garoppolo on Monday. Sanu was good for three of Lance’s even finishes. Benjamin, who has rarely been targeted in camp, dropped a pass on a Lance rollout.
Shanahan said it’s “too early” to judge the recipients, adding, “I don’t think anyone has really separated yet.”