49ers trying to heal before potential clincher
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Braylon Edwards has a nagging knee injury and a bum shoulder. He insists that’s the reason his numbers are down in his first season with San Francisco.
A key acquisition by the 49ers (9-2) heading into the season, Edwards has only 14 catches for 172 yards and no touchdowns in seven games for the NFC West leaders. He missed four games earlier in the year after undergoing surgery on his injured right knee, which still isn’t fully healed.
“It’s not about production, I’ve been hurt. I had knee surgery. Now I have a bad shoulder,” Edwards said Monday, when the Niners returned to work after getting the weekend off. “I haven’t ever had a season where I’ve been hurt, with the exception of my rookie year. This is all new to me. It’s very frustrating, but I ask the team to bear with me. I can’t really control being hurt – it’s part of the game.”
Edwards is among a handful of players who are beat up heading into a week in which they hope to clinch the division and the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2002. He has been targeted seven times in the past two games and has only one reception, missing crucial chances in the end zone.
In Thursday night’s 16-6 loss at Baltimore to coach Jim Harbaugh’s big brother, John, a second-quarter miscommunication between Edwards and quarterback Alex Smith on a deep throw to the end zone resulted in an interception. The 49ers didn’t score a touchdown for the first time all season.
“There’s been limited practice time, a pitch count with him. And same with the games,” said Harbaugh, who didn’t want to speculate on how healthy Edwards is. “I wouldn’t put a percentage on it.”
The 28-year-old Edwards was considered an ideal fit under Harbaugh. They’re both Michigan men. Edwards had great size at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds and relished the second chance he received out West after two tumultuous years with the New York Jets.
Now, Edwards is working to make sure he can contribute come January, come playoff time.
“My plan is more the playoffs. We can pretty much wrap those up with a win this week,” he said. “So, I think the big thing for me is to get back healthy. We’ve got five games left, plus the playoffs. So the ideal goal for me is to just get back healthy for the playoffs. That would be key.”
Harbaugh said he will speak with Edwards privately about any plans for the rest of the regular season.
Edwards declined to say which shoulder is hurting him, though he made it clear he hasn’t returned to full speed or full strength since missing time earlier in the season because of the knee that he hurt early in the game against Dallas on Sept. 18. He injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter of a 19-11 win at Washington on Nov. 6.
“I’m playing through a football season. No one is ever going to be fully healthy, but just fighting every day,” he said. “Injury means you can’t play, but I do have a shoulder ailment, I’ll say. Little bit of AC joint. Nothing super serious, but at the same time, it’s nagging. It bothers me.”
Right guard Adam Snyder is nursing a strained left hamstring he hurt at Baltimore, but Harbaugh declined to offer details because that would tip off Sunday’s opponent, St. Louis. Chilo Rachal played in Snyder’s place.
“He’s working through something. I’m not going to comment on if it’s better, it’s worse, what percent it’s going to be by tomorrow or Saturday or Sunday,” Harbaugh said of Snyder. “I mean, teams would love to know that information. Just can’t expect us to hand it out.”
Without Edwards at his best, the 49ers are thin in the receiving corps. They lost Joshua Morgan for the season in early October to a broken right leg that required surgery.
Morgan, leaving team headquarters Monday wearing a walking boot, said he is improving.
“I’m healing faster than they thought. I’m like a wolverine,” he said, smiling.
Harbaugh sure sounds content with the offensive options he has for Smith. When asked if there’s a need for a game-breaking receiver, he said: “Is there a need for that? Yes. We have that. I think we have that with (Edwards). I think we have that with him, we have that without him, yes.”
Still, Smith realizes he and Edwards need to get in sync, while acknowledging Edwards’ return from the knee injury remains a “work in progress” and he is still trying to get comfortable playing on it again.
“I don’t think it was anything to get worked up about,” Smith said. “We need to get him the ball, keep him involved because he’s such a playmaker, especially down field, he’s such a threat. Need to get him more involved. Didn’t do that on Thursday.”
Fullback Bruce Miller said he has improved from a concussion that sidelined him against the Ravens. Harbaugh didn’t have an update on Miller’s status for Sunday’s game.