Whenever a star-caliber player leaves the field with an injury, fans think the worst. So it was at Candlestick Park last Sunday when Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley left with a knee injury in the first quarter.
Diagnosed with a sprained right knee, it was expected Staley would be out at least a game, maybe two.
But Staley practiced on Thursday and according to the San Jose Mercury News is planning to give it a go on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks make their final visit to The ‘Stick.
“It feels a lot better,” Staley said. “The MCL sprain was not a severe one. But also it was one of those issues in the game they put me down, wanted me to get an MRI and thought I’d done some damage to it. But all the results came back pretty positive.”
Staley was San Francisco’s 28th overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Central Michigan and has started 94 games, including 44 straight. He hasn’t missed a game for the 49ers since he was out the final seven games in 2010 with a broken leg.
Staley’s availability would be good news for the 49ers in a game against the aggressive Seattle front seven. The Seahawks are tied for 11th in the NFL with 34 sacks this season, but are tied for second with 16 interceptions—a lot of those coming from being able to pressure, if not outright sack, the quarterback. Seattle trails only the Carolina Panthers in scoring defense, allowing just 15.5 per game (the 49ers are third at 16.4, incidentally), and are the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL in terms of total defense, allowing 284.5 yards per game.
Sunday’s game is important for San Francisco, perhaps not as much within the context of the divisional race (Seattle leads the 49ers by three games with four to play), but certainly in terms of the wild card chase.
The Panthers and New Orleans Saints play the first of their two meetings at the Superdome on Sunday night and the loser of that game will be 9-4, the same record the 49ers would hold with a win over Seattle.
But San Francisco trails in the tiebreaker against both the Saints and Carolina, having lost head-to-head to each of them.