Losing Jason Verrett would make 49ers' rise substantially more difficult

DETROIT -- Few NFL players have gone through the kind of injuries San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jason Verrett has. But if any Niner can relate, at least a little bit, it's defensive end Dee Ford.

Which is partly why it was so hard for Ford to watch when Verrett injured his right knee in Sunday's 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions.

"Me and him both have been kind of up and down with injuries, so I was really tore up to see that," Ford said. "A guy fights to get in this position and health is one of the biggest things that athletes go through, so just to see that happen to him, I'm praying for the best for him."

Early indications are that Verrett has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that would end his season before it really even started.

From a human empathy perspective, Verrett's injury is a tough pill for the Niners to swallow. From the football side, it's almost as crushing for a team that was already painfully thin when it comes to proven players at the position. And while the likely loss of Verrett is something the 49ers can overcome, it will undoubtedly make their journey back to contender status substantially more difficult.

The free-agent market in the NFL isn't exactly flush with top cornerback options, either, leaving Niners coach Kyle Shanahan unsure of what the next step will be at the position heading toward a Week 2 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We’re always looking at everything every week," Shanahan said. "[I'm] still keeping my fingers crossed on Verrett, but that’s something we’ll look into here probably tonight, tomorrow and Tuesday.”

On Sunday, the Niners were already without presumptive starter Emmanuel Moseley because of a knee injury. They started Verrett and rookie fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir, with veteran K'Waun Williams in his usual spot as the nickel back. Rookie Ambry Thomas and veteran Dontae Johnson, who was called up from the practice squad, were also active.

By the end of the day, all but Thomas played extended snaps. There was some good -- Lenoir allowed one catch for 3 yards on 55 coverage snaps as the nearest defender, per NFL Next Gen Stats -- but there was also plenty of bad, especially after Verrett's departure.

When Verrett left with 7 minutes, 50 seconds to play, the 49ers led 41-17. In the blink of an eye, the Lions and quarterback Jared Goff came storming back (also in part because Shanahan opted to bench some of his key starters out of concern for more possible injuries).

Following Verrett's exit, the Lions scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion on each of their next two possessions before a potential game-tying drive ended at San Francisco's 24. On those Verrett-less drives, Goff completed 16 of 23 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, and Lenoir and Johnson each picked up a defensive pass interference penalty, accounting for an extra 19 yards. In the previous 3½ quarters, Goff was 22-of-34 for 188 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

Now, the 49ers look forward with hope that Moseley can return (a possibility next week, according to Shanahan), Norman can get up to speed and return to form on short notice, or that another option (a Richard Sherman reunion, anyone?) will emerge.

Or, perhaps, they'll continue to roll with what they have and lean on the people most likely to make their cornerbacks' jobs easier: their high-priced defensive line.

"We have got to come back and just be better, especially knowing we’re losing such a great player," Ford said. "We’ll be all right."