The San Francisco 49ers held on to defeat the Detroit Lions 41-33 on Sunday, but confusion surrounding the status of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has overshadowed much of the excitement.

Aiyuk, the second-year receiver out of Arizona State, caught 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing for two scores last season. A versatile weapon that can be deployed in various ways, Aiyuk was expected to be a big part of the Niners’ offense this season.  However, not only did Aiyuk not start against the Lions, but he only played 26 snaps all day and never logged one catch.

The lack of action led many to believe that Aiyuk was in the doghouse with head coach Kyle Shanahan. The coach met with reporters on Friday and was asked about the situation. Shanahan told them that Aiyuk is not, in fact, in the “doghouse” but that the team is simply trying not to overwork him given that he hurt his hamstring in the preseason.

“No, it’s not a doghouse,” Shanahan said. “He would’ve got his spot completely back; tweaked his hamstring before 3rd 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 b/c of fantasy football (laughs).”

That said, Shanahan definitely also talked a bit about how Aiyuk needs to play well during the week in practice and that he’s competing with some strong wide receivers for playing time.

As for Aiyuk, he told reporters on Friday that he hasn’t been on social media, so he wasn’t aware how much of a trending topic his absence had been.

However, that doesn’t mean he’s not aware that his playing time has taken a step back. He talked about how he understands there will be “really high moments and really low moments” during his career and that he needs to “refocus” to “get back on track.”

“I’ve already started to understand in this league it’s never really just a steady path to the top,” said Aiyuk. “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 afterward.”

It would be pretty wild for the 49ers to not use a player like Aiyuk as much as possible given what he’s capable of. But clearly,t Shanahan has an idea bout what he wants to do, either because he doesn’t want to overwork his young star or because he’s trying to send a message. It might not matter which one is true if Aiyuk is scoring touchdowns a few months from now as San Francisco battles for a playoff spot.

In the meantime, all eyes will be on Aiyuk this weekend to see if he starts, how often he plays, and how many passes are thrown his way. The 49ers take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST.

[Brian Murphy, Tracy Sandler, David Lombardi]

About Sean Keeley

Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, Neighborhoods.com, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle.