The matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins set for Sunday is dripping with storylines.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, who made his name as the offensive coordinator for the 49ers under head coach Kyle Shanahan, is facing his former team and mentor. The game also represents a chance for both teams to prove that they are legitimate contenders in their respective conferences.
So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that the gamesmanship between the two sides has already begun, more than 48 hours prior to kickoff.
McDaniel said Friday that he believes Shanahan and star 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel are "in cahoots" and "trying to hustle" him, according to Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post.
"I know Deebo well enough to know he and Kyle are in cahoots trying to hustle me (with uncertainty about availability)," McDaniel said.
McDaniel's comment came in response to a remark made by Shanahan that Samuel might be in danger of missing Sunday's matchup. Shanahan told reporters that Samuel, a 2021 All-Pro, has been battling a thigh injury.
Samuel did not participate in the 49ers' practice Thursday, so it sounds like his ailment might be legitimate. He has dealt with a few other leg injuries this season, too, including a hamstring strain that kept him out of the 49ers' Week 8 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have been candid about the health of star running back Christian McCaffrey, whom San Francisco acquired from the Carolina Panthers in a trade earlier this season. McCaffrey, who missed the team's practice with a knee injury on Wednesday, said he plans to play in full on Sunday.
Not having Samuel available would certainly impact the 49ers' offense. Shanahan uses the versatile weapon in both the receiving and rushing games. He has caught 44 passes for 511 yards and two scores on the season while rushing for another 202 yards and two touchdowns.
We should get some more clarity about Samuel's status when the 49ers take the practice field on Friday.
Regardless, the team can't keep his status a secret forever, as they will have to announce inactive players 90 minutes prior to Sunday's 4:05 p.m. Eastern kickoff.