CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The San Francisco 49ers placed one starter on injured reserve Saturday but replaced him with another one returning from that same list. The Niners announced Saturday that they've placed offensive tackle Colton McKivitz on injured reserve with a sprained left MCL in his knee, which means he must miss at least the next four games before he's eligible to return. Free safety Jimmie Ward, who missed the first four games with a hamstring injury, was activated from injured reserve and will take McKivitz's place on the roster.
Ward is back on the roster after suffering his hamstring injury during training camp. Niners safeties Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga have offered plenty of production with Ward out, but coach Kyle Shanahan has indicated he'd have no problem plugging Ward, a team captain and the Niners' longest-tenured player, back into the lineup once he's healthy.
"The energy that he brings just as a captain, as a leader of our team, just to get that guy back at this point in time out there with the group, I think it's, for the younger guys, it's cool to see how veterans work and cool for them to have one of their leaders back out there," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. "And everybody feels that energy that Jimmie brings for us."
McKivitz suffered the knee injury in Monday night's win against the Los Angeles Rams. Shanahan said this week that McKivitz would likely miss about two months with the injury. McKivitz replaced left tackle Trent Williams, who is out four to six weeks with a high right ankle sprain.
Jaylon Moore is expected to replace Williams and McKivitz at left tackle on Sunday. Moore struggled when he stepped in for Williams in Week 3 but showed improvement against the Rams after McKivitz departed that game.
"He got in that Denver game and so I think he knew it could happen again," Shanahan said. "We gave McKivitz the start, but when you get thrown in a game the week before, it kind of reminds you how quickly that stuff can happen, so you want them to take every single rep, and even the reps they don't take, like a starter, because it's like they always say you're one play away. And I think he was in that spot last week and that helped him in the game. And I think it's even stronger this week."
Teams are allowed to designate eight players on injured reserve with the ability to return in a season. McKivitz is at least the fourth player the Niners intend to bring back to land on injured reserve already, with Ward, running back Elijah Mitchell and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair either back or expected to be at some point. Defensive end Jordan Willis could be another.
In addition to placing McKivitz on injured reserve and activating Ward, the Niners also promoted defensive tackle Akeem Spence from the practice squad to the active roster and elevated running back Tevin Coleman and receiver Malik Turner from the practice squad for Sunday's game at Carolina.
San Francisco had previously ruled out defensive tackles Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) and Javon Kinlaw (knee), Williams, tight end Tyler Kroft (knee), running back Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle) and safety Tarvarius Moore (hamstring) for Sunday's game against the Panthers.