Justin Smith undergoes MRI, status unclear


Justin Smith undergoes MRI, status unclear

SANTA CLARA -- All-Pro 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith underwent an MRI examination on Monday, but coach Jim Harbaugh said more will be known about Smith's availability in the coming days.

"It's really going to be how he is today, tomorrow and Wednesday before we know anything," Harbaugh said a day after the 49ers defeated the New England Patriots 41-34 in a wild game Sunday night in Foxboro, Mass.

Smith played fewer than half of the 49ers' defensive snaps after sustaining an undisclosed injury to his left arm. The 49ers reported it as an elbow injury. Team athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson wrapped Smith's left arm around the elbow, but Smith was unable to return to action.

When asked if it's feared that Smith sustained a long-term injury similar to Parys Haralson, who is out with a torn triceps, Harbaugh said, "No, it seems to be two different things."

Smith said Sunday night that he'd do everything in his power to return to the playing field as quickly as possible. In Smith's absence, the New England Patriots scored 28 consecutive points to tie the game before the NFC West-leading 49ers pulled out the victory to improve to 10-3-1 on the season.

Harbaugh said Smith's exit had an impact, but overall the 49ers did well in compensating for the loss of one of their leaders.

"I thought the guys stepped in and did some really good things," Harbaugh said "Ricky Jean (Francois) did a really nice and I thought our guys stepped up. Really, the chances we had to get off the field didn't come from that position. We made some errors elsewhere."

Jean Francois recorded a sack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on a third-and-15 play with approximately five minutes remaining to force a punt after the 49ers had taken a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers return to action Sunday night at the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers need to win only one of their final two games to win the division title. However, the 49ers hold a half-game lead over the Green Bay Packers for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The two top seeds earn a first-round bye in the playoffs, as well as a home game in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”

Bills sign two former 49ers

Bills sign two former 49ers

The Buffalo Bills have signed two 49ers free agents within the past two days.

After signing wide receiver Rod Streater on Wednesday, the Bills announced the signing of linebacker Gerald Hodges on Thursday.

The 49ers acquired Hodges in a 2015 trade with the Minnesota Vikings for center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft pick. Hodges started 12 games last season and ranked second on the team with 92 tackles.

Hodges left the 49ers shorthanded for a late-season game against the Atlanta Falcons when he violated team rules. Then-coach Chip Kelly did not disclose the nature of Hodges infraction. Hodges offered no explanation or apology.

The 49ers entered the game against the high-powered Falcons with just two healthy inside linebackers due to Hodges’ deactivation. Starter Nick Bellore sustained an elbow injury on the third play of the game, and the 49ers were forced to use safeties Antoine Bethea and Vinnie Sunseri, and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks at various points of the game.

The 49ers showed no interest in re-signing Hodges as a free agent.

Streater, a five-year NFL veteran, saw action in all 16 games last season after being acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in September. He caught 18 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.