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Putting a black mark on the 49ers' blowout win over the Buccaneers on Sunday was the sight of All-Pro wideout Deebo Samuel being carted off the field after suffering an ankle injury on a running play. Jerry Rice, a Hall of Fame receiver who helped bring three Super Bowl titles to the Bay Area, feels that Samuel's injury could have been avoided. 

The 49ers great criticized the team's play-calling following the game while alluding to the fact that his former team has now suffered injuries to Samuel as well as to quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Rice specifically criticized head coach Kyle Shanahan's usage of his skill players. 

"Please stop running our skill players up the middle. @trey.lance @jimmypolo10 now @19problemz all hurt!!," Rice posted on Instagram following the 49ers' 35-7 win. 

Former 49ers defensive back and current NBC Sports analyst Donte Whitner vehemently disagreed with Rice's take. While doing so, Whitner also took a shot at the NFL's all-time leader in just about every major receiving category. 

"We just know that Jerry wasn't going up the middle. He was staying outside the numbers, that's where he got his work done," Whitner said. "Football is football. ... Deebo Samuel is built for that type of contact. ... I don't agree with Jerry. In football, you have to be able to run up the middle. You have to be able to run outside, or the defense will be able to key in and stop those key plays." 

The nature of Samuel's injury likely touched a nerve that stems from similar injuries Rice sustained during his career. He missed virtually the entire 1997 season after suffering a severe knee injury while getting the ball on a reverse in the season opener. Three years earlier, with Mike Shanahan (Kyle's father) serving as the 49ers' offensive coordinator, Rice injured his shoulder on a running play late in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXIX. Despite the injury, Rice stayed in the game and caught 10 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns in San Francisco's win over the Chargers

Rice and Whitner make fair points regarding Samuel's injury. While injuries are part of the game, Shanahan did put one of his best players in harm's way by asking him to run through the middle of a Buccaneers defense that includes one of the league's best linebacker duos in Devin White and Lavonte David

The positive news is that the severity of Samuel's injury is not as bad as initially thought. Shanahan said that Samuel "most likely" suffered a high ankle sprain. While he will likely miss the rest of the regular season, Samuel could be ready when the playoffs begin next month.