49ers CB Emmanuel Moseley feared to have torn left ACL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The San Francisco 49ers have become all too accustomed to the oddly specific situation they found themselves in as they departed Charlotte on Sunday night.

The Niners had just dispatched the Panthers 37-15 to get to 3-2 but headed to the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, for a week of practice with mixed emotions. That's because they had just watched four key players limp away from the Bank of America Stadium artificial turf with myriad injuries.

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, defensive end Nick Bosa, kicker Robbie Gould and free safety Jimmie Ward departed Sunday's win with injuries and did not return to the game.

Most pressing on that list is Moseley's left knee injury, which the Niners fear includes a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Moseley, who suffered the injury in the fourth quarter, will have further testing to confirm that injury on Monday, according to coach Kyle Shanahan.

The Niners were more optimistic about the injuries to Bosa, Gould and Ward.

Bosa played the first half before a tight groin prevented him from starting the second half. He was ruled out at the beginning of the third quarter with Shanahan saying that he, too, will likely have further testing done Monday to determine the severity of the injury.

"He started feeling it, it was a little tight all day," Shanahan said. "In the second quarter, you could see him coming off the field. We looked into it at halftime -- he didn't feel like he could go."

Ward, whom the Niners activated from injured reserve on Saturday after he missed the first four games because of a hamstring injury, lasted only one play before departing with what Shanahan said is a broken left hand.

Gould suffered a left knee injury in the third quarter as he attempted to tackle Panthers kick returner Raheem Blackshear. Gould was walking OK in the locker room after the game, and Shanahan said he believes it's a bruised knee on Gould's non-kicking leg. With Gould out, punter Mitch Wishnowsky took over as the kicker, with fullback Kyle Juszczyk stepping into Wishnowsky's role as the holder.

The quartet of injuries was the latest in a string of bad injury luck for the Niners this season and the third straight year they have dealt with a rash of injuries in the front end of back-to-back games before a trip to West Virginia.

"That definitely took away from a little bit of the excitement at the end, but we know the deal," Shanahan said. "It's part of this league and everybody goes through it, and that was a tough one today. I love how we get to go to Greenbrier; I love how our guys get to stay together. It's a lot easier to focus when you do that, and hopefully we'll get some better news on some of these guys."

In 2020, the Niners spent Weeks 2 and 3 back east with games against the New York Jets and Giants in New York surrounding a stay at the Greenbrier. In a 31-13 win against the Jets, the Niners lost Bosa and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas to torn ACLs and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Raheem Mostert to a sprained ankle and knee, respectively. Even the MRI machine that was sent to do testing on those players broke down on the way to the Greenbrier.

In 2021, the Niners beat the Detroit Lions in Week 1 before heading to the Greenbrier but lost cornerback Jason Verrett and Mostert to season-ending knee injuries and linebacker Dre Greenlaw to a groin injury that kept him out for most of the season.

While the spate of injuries before a trip to the Greenbrier can be chalked up as coincidental, there is one common denominator in all three of those games that can't be discounted, according to tight end George Kittle: the playing surface.

Stadiums in New York, Detroit and Carolina all feature artificial playing surfaces.

"The thing that just confuses me is, if you're not gonna mandate grass, then why aren't all turf fields the exact same turf so guys get used to playing on the same turf everywhere?" said Kittle, who has been adamant about the league mandating for grass fields in recent years. "But every field has a different turf, so it's just like you're playing on a different surface. NBA guys don't play on different wood. Hockey guys don't play on different ices all the time. It's ice. So, I just wish we played on a surface that was similar week in and week out so your body would just be dealing with different crappy turf."

It's tough to determine how much the surface played into those injuries, but the Niners have a growing list of injuries suffered on the artificial kind, and Moseley's injury, in particular, raised some eyebrows among teammates in the locker room Sunday.

"I thought it was an OK turf, but turf is turf," Kittle said. "I'd much rather play on grass. That's why I love [Niners CEO] Jed York. We have the nicest grass in the NFL [at Levi's Stadium]. Week in and week out, our practice fields have the nicest grass field and we have the nicest game field."

If, as expected, Moseley misses an extended period, the Niners will have to turn to one of a group that includes Deommodore Lenoir, Ambry Thomas or Samuel Womack III to step into his role.

One other possibility is Verrett. He opened his practice window to return from the physically unable to perform list last week, and though it might still be a bit before he can take on such a big role, he's nearing a return from that 2021 injury.

In the meantime, the Niners were already lamenting the loss of Moseley, who had emerged as one of the better corners in the league through the first four-plus weeks and looked poised to cash in as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Moseley had an interception return for a touchdown and two pass breakups before his injury.

"It's bittersweet," cornerback Charvarius Ward said. "I just hope he's all right. I just hope he's good. I pray he's all right."