SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Dee Ford won’t be coming back this season for the San Francisco 49ers and quite possibly not at all.

The Niners declined to activate Ford from injured reserve before a deadline Wednesday, sending him home to rest the lingering back injury that has limited him to seven games the past two seasons.

Ford has likely played his final game in San Francisco as the Niners are unlikely to bring him back for the final year of his contract and the 30-year-old might end up retiring if he can’t get healthy again.

“I mean, that’s what it sounds like, but you’d have to talk to him about that,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s a back thing that I don’t know if there’s much rehab for it. You have to keep resting it and we’ve done that a bunch, so it’s been tough on him, tough on us and it’s just an unfortunate injury.”

Ford was one of the prized acquisitions for the 49ers when they traded a second-round pick to Kansas City to acquire the pass rusher in the 2019 offseason and immediately rewarded him with a five year, $85 million contract. The contract has since been reworked for salary cap considerations.

Ford made an immediate impact with 6 1/2 sacks in the first 10 games that season to help the Niners earn the top seed in the NFC playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl.


But Ford played only four snaps over the final six games that regular season because of a quadriceps injury. Ford returned for the postseason and had a sack in the divisional round against Minnesota and a quarterback hit in the Super Bowl loss to Kansas City.

Ford then played just one game last season before going on injured reserve for the rest of the season with the back issues and only got limited action this season for San Francisco.

“It’s tough,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “As a competitor you want to be out there, especially with that kind of injury. Any time you are dealing with something with a back, that’s tough. I think he’s been trying his hardest to get out there. It just hasn’t worked out. He’s had some setbacks and we miss him out there for sure.”

Ford has been paid more than $41 million by the Niners the past three seasons, according to Over The Cap, despite playing just 476 snaps over 18 games in the regular season and playoffs. He had 10 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles.

The Niners will take a $9.8 million dead money charge on the 2022 cap if Ford doesn’t return and could owe him an additional $4.6 million injury guaranteed roster bonus if he’s not healthy by March. That could work out to more than $100,000 per snap for his tenure in San Francisco.

The 49ers have been able to survive Ford’s absence this season thanks to a strong season from Nick Bosa, who is tied for third in the NFL with 14 sacks. San Francisco is ninth in the NFL with 33 sacks.

NOTES: TE George Kittle (knee), RB Elijah Mitchell (concussion, knee), LB Azeez Al-Shaair (elbow), LB Dre Greenlaw (groin), DL D.J. Jones (knee) and DL Maurice Hurst (calf) missed practice with injuries. … LB Fred Warner (ankle), S Jaquiski Tartt (glute) and CB Ambry Thomas (concussion) were all limited. … San Francisco signed CB Lavert Hill and OL Wyatt Miller to the practice squad.


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