49ers lose wideout Joshua Morgan for the season
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Jim Harbaugh is shuffling his receiving corps yet again.
After losing Braylon Edwards to a knee injury that required surgery in Week 2, the San Francisco 49ers are down another star wideout heading into a key game Sunday at unbeaten Detroit (5-0).
Joshua Morgan is done for the season with a broken bone in his lower right leg. He underwent surgery Monday and had screws inserted to stabilize the injury, which Harbaugh insists isn’t career-threatening.
San Francisco placed Morgan on the season-ending injured reserve list Wednesday after he was hurt late in a 48-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. To help fill the void, the Niners signed wideout Brett Swain to a one-year deal.
Harbaugh had been hopeful before the operation that Morgan might return late in the season or for a possible playoff game, but Morgan also had some stretching of the ligament and it was determined he would need all season to fully heal.
The 26-year-old Morgan, a fourth-year pro out of Virginia Tech, had 15 catches for 220 yards and one touchdown for the 49ers (4-1) this year. Five of those came in the rout of the Buccaneers.
“His career will be fine,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll give him the time to really get it healed right. We’d like to fill Josh’s shoes, and they’re big shoes to fill, especially where Josh was at and the level Josh Morgan was playing at when he got hurt. We’re fired up that Brett’s here and we’ll get him going as fast as we can.”
Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. will handle the bulk of the load as starting wideouts, with tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker also having big roles.
The 26-year-old Swain was cut in late August by Green Bay. He had three tackles on special teams in the Packers’ Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh. He has six career receptions for 72 yards, all last year. He missed much of 2009 with a knee injury.
Swain grew up in San Diego and was a seventh-round draft pick by the Packers out of San Diego State in 2008.
Harbaugh, an ex-NFL quarterback, threw passes to a handful of receivers who worked out for the team Tuesday. Swain finished second in a 40-yard dash and stood out to the coach. Swain’s experience on special teams helped his chances, too.
“To lose (Morgan) hurts,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “The next guy’s got to step up.”
Harbaugh had some concert-size speakers brought in this week and rock ‘n’ roll music blared during practice Wednesday to prepare San Francisco’s players for the brutal crowd noise at Ford Field. The stadium’s record crowd of 67,861 fans Monday night helped rattle the Bears into nine false starts in Detroit’s 24-13 win.
A connection from Harbaugh’s days coaching at Stanford delivered the heavy-duty audio equipment, similar to what he used for practice while leading the Cardinal. Harbaugh said he was frustrated this didn’t happen earlier.
“We’ve upgraded our sound system,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get that done for about eight weeks. So, finally got it done. We wanted better speakers. Louder music system.”
One of the wideouts who so wishes he could play this week: Detroit native Edwards, who isn’t sure he will even make the trip. He is on schedule to return from his injury after next week’s bye for an Oct. 30 home game against Cleveland.
Edwards sported a black “Tigers Baseball” T-shirt in the locker room Wednesday. He appreciates what the Lions’ resurgence and success by the Tigers is doing for his city.
“Detroit has been looking for something for so long,” Edwards said. “We’ve depended upon the automotive industry as well as the Red Wings pretty much as our saving grace. To see Michigan returning, Michigan State’s ranked, the Tigers are in the playoffs in a battle right now, the Lions are 5-0. It’s really good for the city. I can’t cheer for the Lions but in terms of what they’re doing for the city, it’s good to see.”
Morgan’s teammates were saddened that his season is over.
“To lose a guy like that it’s real in our room right now,” Ginn said. “You just go out and play football and continue and step up to the plate and have fun while you’re doing it and execute for your team.”
One thing that might help him through the extensive rehabilitation process is the 49ers’ commitment to keeping him. He is signed through 2011 but Harbaugh said he was told the team wants him around next year and beyond.
“We’ll make that a priority,” Harbaugh said. “Josh woke up and was a little groggy. First thing he said was ‘that’s football.’ He’ll be back, and we have no doubts of that. … He’ll be back soon, back around his teammates. Josh is a strong guy now, strong physically and also strong mentally.”
Notes: San Francisco released C Chase Beeler from the practice squad and signed WR Kerry Taylor – nephew of former 49ers receiver John Taylor – to the practice squad. … LG Mike Iupati didn’t practice and had a wrap on his right knee, while NG Isaac Sopoaga (infection) returned.