An MCL injury, a baby on the way and matching Jim Brown: Raheem Mostert's wild week

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A storybook year for Raheem Mostert is about to add another memorable chapter.

In the past 12 months, Mostert, the San Francisco 49ers' running back, has gone from little known special teamer to ascendant NFL star, stopping to take it all in every step along the way.

This week, as the Niners practice from the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, ahead of a game with the New York Giants, Mostert's year of blessings will bring the birth of his second son.

And Mostert told KNBR radio in San Francisco last week the details had been worked out that would allow him to make the trip from West Virginia to the hospital in Cleveland near his family home to meet with his wife, Devon, continue his COVID-19 testing, be in the room for the birth and return in time to play on Sunday.

"Hopefully it works out for them," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "... I know we're gonna do whatever we can to help him out."

Of course, some of that might not be necessary now as Mostert recovers from an MCL sprain suffered in a win over the New York Jets that is likely to keep him out this week. That Mostert might have to literally take the long road -- The Greenbrier is about 370 miles away from Cleveland, reachable by a six-hour drive -- to be there for his son's arrival is fitting. He has made a career of it.

The former skateboarder-turned-surfer-turned-football player spent his first half-decade in the NFL searching for an opportunity. The Niners are his seventh team with previous stops in Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York (Jets) and Chicago, all of those in less than two years. In some of those places, he didn't so much as crack the 53-man roster, and he nearly walked away from the game after the Browns released him in 2015.

Even after settling in with the 49ers late in 2016, Mostert forged his path via special teams. It wasn't until enough injuries happened that Mostert got an opportunity to play running back. When he finally got a long look over the final five games of the 2019 regular season and into the postseason, Mostert made the entire NFL world take notice. His four touchdowns and 220 rushing yards in the NFC Championship Game propelled San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

Through it all, Mostert never so much as started an NFL game. In fact, he didn't make his first start until the 2020 season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, an opportunity six years and 52 games in the making.

"It's crazy to think that was his first official start," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "I'm just so proud of him. I feel like I have been on this journey with him because I played with him in Baltimore when he was young and wasn't getting the respect that he's been getting right now."

The night before that Week 1 start, Mostert thought about the path. It's a practice Mostert said he embraced long ago.

"I do take that time to reflect," Mostert said. "Just based on my journey, not only journey for myself, but journey with my family, just sit back and start to think 'Man, like, I got engaged when I was in Baltimore and that feels like so long ago,' those things just start replaying in my head. Just all the stuff that I've gone through in my life and what helped me get to where I'm at now."

Mostert made the most of his first start, catching a 76-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on which he reached a maximum speed of 22.73 miles per hour, the fastest time by any ball carrier in the past three years, according to NFL NextGen Stats data.

For an encore, Mostert broke an 80-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in his second start against the Jets. According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, Mostert is the second player in NFL history with a 75-plus-yard rushing touchdown and a 75-plus-yard receiving touchdown in his team's first two games in a season. The other? Jim Brown in 1963.

And on his Week 2 touchdown he reached 23.09 mph, the fastest by any ball carrier in the past five years.

"It's kind of one of those things where you just realize you're running away from everyone," Mostert said.

But this week, Mostert will be running toward the people who matter to him most.

Back in early March, Mostert opted out of an autograph signing at a sports memorabilia show in the Bay Area, citing concerns about the coronavirus. Since, Mostert and his family have paid close attention to all things COVID-19 and used what they've learned to inform every decision they've made.

While Mostert chose not to opt out of the season, he and Devon had what Mostert called a "very long and tough discussion" about it. They eventually came to the conclusion Mostert would play but return to the Bay Area alone while his family stayed in Cleveland.

"We've been able to communicate on a day-to-day basis just to understand each other's feelings and just to make sure she's at ease, especially during a time like this with the uncertainty of COVID as well as having the birth of our second boy," Mostert said during training camp. "It's been a blessing that we have both been on the same page. We've both had nights where we've cried on each other and talked about about how we're gonna manage this whole deal."

Shanahan met with Mostert to figure out how he could be with Devon when the baby is delivered. Those discussions are expected to come to fruition this week.

But even with the disappointment of the injury, the bright spot for Mostert is he should get the chance to be there for the birth of his son -- expected on Thursday -- and be reunited with Devon and his oldest, Gunner. It's the latest step in his journey both on and off the field.

"He's such a professional," Juszczyk said. "He's such a leader in our room and you can just see it in his confidence, the way he carries himself and the way he plays. Everything he does, there's no hesitation anymore. He's confident in what he does and just proud and happy for him."