Although the likelihood of Delanie Walker returning Saturday from the broken jaw he sustained in the second-to-last game of the season is slim, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh left the door open when asked about his tight end's status on Monday.
"We have made a decision on Delanie -- we're going to keep that spot open," Harbaugh said. "We got great news on that (last) Wednesday. ... He is not the normal guy, he's young and has great powers of healing. He has made tremendous progress. We'll see exactly when he is back but right now, to answer the question ... I'm not ruling him out for this weekend."
There are a number of ways to read into Harbaugh's comments. The most logical is that Walker is not yet fully ready but if the 49ers are confident Walker could return in time for the NFC Championship in a week, keeping him off injured reserve is the preferred plan.
It could also be evidence of a bit of gamesmanship between Harbaugh and Saints coach Sean Payton. There's no reason to make the game prep any easier for New Orleans, and the prospect of facing Walker does complicate matters for the visiting team.
Also, as 46 players will dress (seven must be declared inactive) there's no harm in leaving Walker on the 53-man roster. That's because as long as the 49ers have enough players to practice, they don't need to make a roster move. Any player activated from the practice squad would not be one of the 46 players to suit up on Saturday.
Bottom line: Walker is not expected to play but Harbaugh did not rule out his availability for remainder of playoffs.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.
On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.
Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.
Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”
Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.
Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.
Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.
Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.
If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.
Former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula reportedly might be back in the NFL after a one-year hiatus.
Tomsula, who spent his first eight NFL seasons as a defensive line coach, could be returning to that job with Washington, Carol Maloney of NBC4 reported on Sunday. But according to the Washington Post, a deal is not done between the two sides.
If the deal were to happen Tomsula would be rejoining Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and general manager Scot McCloughan, both of whom he worked with while members of the 49ers organization.
Tomsula was promoted to the head-coaching job over finalist Adam Gase two years ago after the 49ers' “mututal parting” with coach Jim Harbaugh. Tomsula was fired after the 49ers went 5-11 in 2015. Chip Kelly was hired to replace Tomsula. Kelly was fired after the 49ers went 2-14, including a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak.