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Niners coach Kyle Shanahan wary of resting healthy players ahead of postseason

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The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up the NFC West title last week and are likely locked into the No. 2 or 3 seed in the conference, but coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t plan on resting his starters multiple games down the stretch.

“I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes people make, just watching it over the years, in my opinion,” Shanahan said Tuesday, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’ve been on a lot of teams when you rest guys or give guys a few more weeks (of rest), and those are usually the guys who struggle the most in that first playoff game.”

At 10-4, it’s unlikely the Niners can catch the 13-1 Eagles for the No. 1 seed, barring a Philly collapse. San Francisco could leap to the No. 2 spot ahead of Minnesota, ensuring two home playoff games, but wouldn’t fall further than the No. 3 seed.

With games against Washington, Las Vegas and Arizona left, Shanahan will have to balance keeping his players sharp versus getting them rest. For a team that has dealt with a host of key injuries this season, ensuring they’re as healthy as possible for a postseason run should be the first goal.

While insisting he wants to stay sharp, Shanahan did concede that players who are iffy health-wise could be held out down the stretch.

“Like last year when it came to our last game, you have guys who are fighting to play because they’re right on the bubble of not being able to play,” he said. “In this situation, those guys you’d definitely rest. So anybody who has an injury that could risk them for the following week, the decision is that there’s no decision. You definitely rest them.”

One interesting decision for the Niners is whether Deebo Samuel will return before the playoffs after injuring his knee and ankle in Week 14. The star wideout won’t play this week, but Shanahan didn’t rule out Samuel returning for the final two games of the regular season.

“He’s week to week,” Shanahan said of Samuel. “I think this week maybe there would be a chance if we were that desperate. But I’m not even looking into this week, and we’ll see how he is next Monday and make that same decision.”

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