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49ers’ Kyle Shanahan hopes to reduce Christian McCaffrey’s workload next season

Three-time Pro Bowler Christian McCaffrey is the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year. The San Francisco 49ers have relied on the star running back since the team acquired him in a trade in 2022.

His 339 touches led the NFL last season, but McCaffrey is no stranger to handling the physical toll that comes with being a high-usage player. He has averaged at least 19.4 touches per game over the past six seasons. 

But the Madden 2024 cover athlete could see a lighter workload in 2024.

McCaffrey celebrated his 28th birthday last month. During that same month, the Niners rewarded him with a contract extension that would keep him with the franchise through the 2027 season.

Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers’ head coach, acknowledged McCaffrey’s importance to the team and noted that protecting the league’s highest-paid running back next season will be a priority.

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“We have guys that can run the ball,” Shanahan said. “We have to protect Christian from himself. He doesn’t like to ever come out, no matter what the situation is. And I do think that’s something we could protect him with more.”

Christian McCaffrey runs with ball

McCaffrey was on the field for 81% of the 49ers’ snaps last season. Shanahan and the coaching staff elected to have him sit out the 2023 regular-season finale because the team had already clinched the NFC’s top playoff seed.

Christian McCaffrey runs

McCaffrey’s versatility has been a key part of his success throughout his NFL career. He finished the 2019 season with the Carolina Panthers with a career-high 1,005 receiving yards. He had a career-best seven touchdown receptions in 2023.

“When you are such a threat in the pass game, it’s a little bit different,” Shanahan added. “But if he’s just taking the wear and tear with 20 carries and stuff every game — and he’s definitely good enough to do that, and he has proved he can stay healthy — but you’d like to take some of that off of him and give it to other guys also.”

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