Neck surgery for 49ers' Heitmann, 2011 in doubt

June 29, 2011, 7:57 pm
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Center Eric Heitmann, a mainstay on the 49ers' offensive line since entering the NFL in 2002, is expected to miss his second season in a row after undergoing recent neck surgery.Dr. Robert Watkins, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Marina del Rey, performed the surgery to repair a ruptured disk approximately four weeks ago, said Kenny Zuckerman, Heitmann's agent. Heitmann is currently rehabilitating in his home state of Texas.
"The bottom line is that he feels much better, and the pain has disippiated," Zuckerman said. "The tingling has decreased, and his hopes are to play as soon as he's cleared."This type of surgery generally takes approximately six months from which to recover, Zuckerman said. Therefore, it appears unlikely Heitmann will play this season. Heitmann's contract with the 49ers expires after the upcoming season.Heitmann, 31, sustained what was reported as a "stinger" early training camp last summer. Five days later, he suffered a broken left fibula that kept him out of action for the early part of the regular season.REWIND: 49ers center Heitmann out with leg fracture
After Heitmann's leg healed, he was unable to return to action because of his neck condition. The 49ers ultimately placed him on injured reserve on Nov. 2. David Baas, who remains unsigned, started all 16 games at center in place of Heitmann.MAIOCCO: Baas' long flight shows commitment to 49ers
Beginning in 2004, Heitmann missed just two starts in six seasons. He sustained a broken leg late in the 2006 season, forcing him out of the final two games of the season.Heitmann was named the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for three consecutive seasons (2006-'08). The award is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best exemplifies the dedication, excellence and commitment of the long-time offensive line coach.Heitmann has played in 119 NFL regular-season games with 114 starts during his career after the 49ers selected him in the seventh-round of the 2002 draft.