SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Unless someone knows the medical term for "banged up," let's just say that San Francisco 49ers linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes have injuries to their right hands that are serious enough to affect their availability for Thursday night.
Both players practiced Tuesday with their hands heavily bandaged. Both also said they're uncertain about playing against the San Diego Chargers, even though defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the bandages were "more for protection than anything else."
The 49ers wouldn't discuss the extent of the injuries, so it's not known if either player's hand is broken. Regardless, it's not a good development when you consider that Willis and Spikes are the 49ers' leading tacklers and the team is just days away from facing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and the NFL's second-rated offense.
"Right now, it's still unclear whether I'm gonna go or not," said Willis. "It got banged up pretty good and I'm just gonna see what the doctors say, listen to my trainers, and hopefully it's good. But right now it's uncertain."
Both players said they were injured early in the Niners' 40-21 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, so it's remarkable that they continued to play. Spikes finished with a team-best nine tacles; Willis had seven.
Willis played with a broken hand in 2007, his rookie season, and fared well. Spikes said he spoke with his teammate for advice on playing with a hand injury.
"Yeah I did," he said. "He seemed to do pretty good with it. Actually, he did damn good with a cast on his hand. Right now, it's just day to day. We're trying to see what we can do to hopefully get ready to play, but it got banged up pretty good."
Spikes acknowledged that it was a bad time for a serious injury – short week, a tough opponent and the playoffs hanging in the balance.
"This is the worst week," he said. "It came at the wrong time."