Although the likelihood of Delanie Walker returning Saturday from the broken jaw he sustained in the second-to-last game of the season is slim, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh left the door open when asked about his tight end's status on Monday.
"We have made a decision on Delanie -- we're going to keep that spot open," Harbaugh said. "We got great news on that (last) Wednesday. ... He is not the normal guy, he's young and has great powers of healing. He has made tremendous progress. We'll see exactly when he is back but right now, to answer the question ... I'm not ruling him out for this weekend."
There are a number of ways to read into Harbaugh's comments. The most logical is that Walker is not yet fully ready but if the 49ers are confident Walker could return in time for the NFC Championship in a week, keeping him off injured reserve is the preferred plan.
It could also be evidence of a bit of gamesmanship between Harbaugh and Saints coach Sean Payton. There's no reason to make the game prep any easier for New Orleans, and the prospect of facing Walker does complicate matters for the visiting team.
Also, as 46 players will dress (seven must be declared inactive) there's no harm in leaving Walker on the 53-man roster. That's because as long as the 49ers have enough players to practice, they don't need to make a roster move. Any player activated from the practice squad would not be one of the 46 players to suit up on Saturday.
Bottom line: Walker is not expected to play but Harbaugh did not rule out his availability for remainder of playoffs.