Calm down, 49ers fans: Brandon Aiyuk is not on Kyle Shanahan's naughty list.
Aiyuk played 26 snaps in San Francisco's 41-33 win over Detroit, accounting for 47 percent of the 49ers' total offensive plays. His depth chart understudy, Trent Sherfield, played one more snap than him in the victory, catching two passes for 23 yards and San Francisco's first touchdown of the season.
Aiyuk, meanwhile, didn't see a single target, serving as a nonfactor in San Francisco's offensive attack, which tallied 442 total yards.
The statistical results left 49ers fans concerned the former first-round pick may be falling out of favor in San Francisco. Shanahan tossed cold water on those worries Friday, saying Aiyuk's participation rate was a product of an inconsistent training camp due to injury and an impressive preseason from Sherfield.
"No, it's not a doghouse," Shanahan said, via KNBR's Brian Murphy. "He would've got his spot completely back; tweaked his hamstring before the third preseason game. Planned on rotating him; we did. and you get a big reaction to that. It's not personal ... Things are a bigger deal because of fantasy football."
Shanahan ended his comment with a laugh, subtly noting the humor in public consternation over the participation of a player expected to play a big role in the 49ers' offense, especially after an impressive rookie season that led many to believe he'd play an even bigger part in 2021. How could they possibly win a fantasy championship without the production of one individual?
Shanahan isn't out to win fans their fantasy championships, of course. He's focused on winning games for the team he coaches, and right now, with Aiyuk still on the way back to full participation following an injury that traditionally can become a nagging one, he's not forcing anything. Sherfield's performance -- one built on precise route running, so much that teammate Mohamed Sanu has nicknamed him "textbook Trent" -- makes it easier for Shanahan to roll with a rotation, which is exactly what he did Sunday.
Aiyuk was asked Friday if his diminished Week 1 role came as a surprise.
"Definitely," he said, per The Athletic. "But that was last week. I'm not really focused on that anymore."
Aiyuk acknowledged the lack of production has provided extra motivation for him for Sunday's game against the Eagles, but also seemed to take a pragmatic approach to the situation.
"I've already started to understand in this league it's never really just a steady path to the top," Aiyuk said, per The Athletic. "You're gonna have really high moments and really low moments, but I think it's all about how you refocus, how you rebalance and get back on track afterwards."
There are 17 more weeks left in this season. Aiyuk will have plenty of chances to make his mark, provided he puts in a level of effort Shanahan deems satisfactory. Sherfield certainly is, adding to his value with his special teams production.
Shanahan has been known to challenge his players with his public comments, something he might believe Aiyuk could use. But a rotation that was nearly equal indicates he's nowhere near banishing Aiyuk to the bench in a fashion 49ers fans witnessed with the disappointing tenure of former second-rounder Dante Pettis. Aiyuk has untapped potential that Pettis did not, and it appears we're not taking the first steps down a road similar to that of Pettis, which eventually led him out of town.
If we get to Week 10 and Aiyuk still isn't a factor, then fans can become rightfully concerned. We're far from that now, though. Shanahan doesn't seem too worried, and after winning his first game, he shouldn't be.