Injury report: Justin Smith returns for late-game contribution

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Injury report: Justin Smith returns for late-game contribution

ST. LOUIS -- Defensive lineman Justin Smith aggravated a left knee injury Sunday, and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh thought his day was over.But when the 49ers needed the defense to step up, Smith stepped out on the field without seeking approval from the team's coaches, Harbaugh said."I thought he was out of the game in the first quarter," Harbaugh said. "He comes back in at the end of the game and takes it over when we had to have them stopped."The 49ers wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with their 34-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. And with a first-round bye, the 49ers will get some much-needed rest before their first playoff game on the weekend of Jan. 14-15.RECAP: 49ers clinch first-round bye with 34-27 win over Rams
The 49ers had to hold off the Rams, who scored 14 points in a 13-second span late in the fourth quarter. Smith went back on the field for a crucial sequence in which the 49ers' defense held.Smith is not the only Pro Bowl-bound 49ers player who saw limited playing time Sunday. Running back Frank Gore carried just seven times for 9 yards. The 49ers managed to win the game without their top back touching the ball for the final 35 minutes of the game."It's big," Gore said. "We get our bodies all fresh as a team."Harbaugh indicated that Gore was held out of action due to an unspecified injury. But Gore said nothing physically prevented him from playing. Gore played in all 16 games for the 49ers this season. He led the team with 1,211 yards on 282 rushing attempts."I'm good. I'm cool," Gore said. "He (Harbaugh) said I was good. We were up."The 49ers should be at full strength for their first playoff game, with the possible exception of tight end Delanie Walker, who sustained a fractured jaw Dec. 24 against the Seattle Seahawks.Wide receiver Kyle Williams sat out Sunday's game with a concussion. He said he will be cleared to play in the playoffs. He said he has been symptom-free for a couple days."It (medical clearance) will definitely happen before we play next," Williams said. "I'll definitely be back for the next game."Wide receiver Ted Ginn (left ankle) missed his second game. He has been running, and is expected to be ready for the 49ers' playoff opener, as well.Fullback Bruce Miller, who has been limited in practice due to a left knee injury, aggravated his injury in the first quarter. He returned to action late in Sunday's game.

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ biggest free-agent acquisition on defense and one of the team’s first-round draft picks play the same position.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he is holding off on thinking about how everything is going to play out this season at the linebacker position.

“I really try not to envision it too hard because I see a lot of good players there,” Shanahan said Tuesday during the 49ers’ first week of organized team activities.

The 49ers awarded weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith guaranteed money as an unrestricted free agent totaling approximately $12 million. Then, on the first day of the draft, the 49ers’ No. 3 rated prospect experienced a free fall, and the club traded into the back end of the first round to select him.

While Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sidelined through the offseason program as he recovers from shoulder injury, he figures to compete with Smith for the starting job. Foster will also learn middle linebacker, where NaVorro Bowman has earned first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons.

Bowman looks to be nearly all the way back from a torn Achilles that limited him to just four games last season.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Shanahan said. “Seeing Bow out here and how healthy he’s been, knowing we’ve added some good free agents, and the way the draft worked out, having a linebacker we had ranked very highly fall to us at the end of the first round. We got a lot better pretty fast.

“When you ask me how it’s going to play out, I’m not sure. It’s a good problem to have. It’s something you’d like to have any every position. There’s going to be a very good player who’s not out there all the time. That’s not a bad thing. That makes the two guys who are out there go a lot harder and play better. It makes special teams better and it allowed you to survive injuries, which almost always happen.”

Bowman’s vision for the upcoming season includes him retaining his role in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

"I won't be on the sideline, I'll tell you that right now,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he was not fazed with the 49ers selected Foster in the first round. Foster is likely considered the heir apparent to Bowman.

Shanahan called Bowman after the selection of Foster was made, but Bowman said he did not need to speak with the coach about why the selection was made.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bowman said of the phone call, “but it was good to hear from him, to see that he had something to say or an idea of what he wanted to get across to me.

“But we haven’t talked about it. I did that on purpose. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll compete with anyone, whether he’s 21 or 35. It doesn’t matter. I’m a guy who’s going to give my best effort and have full confidence in my abilities to play this game. I know how much I study this game. I know how good I am and that’s what was going to bring back here.

“It’s always a competition. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. As a player, if you keep that in mind, you’ll always put the work in that’s needed.”

 

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49ers have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.