SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers are gaining, and losing, an inside linebacker as they prep for practice this week with the Denver Broncos.
Head coach Jim Tomsula said Michael Wilhoite is expected to return to practice this week after missing all of training camp with a muscle strain.
Wilhoite started all 16 games last season while the 49ers dealt with the extended losses of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. He finished third on San Francisco's fifth-ranked defense with 85 tackles.
"He'll be out there some," Tomsula said. "Again, you've seen how we've done this. We're going to stay on the same protocol where it's where we go from 0 to 100 in one day. We're not looking to do that. We're going to guage that on how he's feeling, how he's looking. We keep checking up on him and our training staff will keep doing that. Again, (we) reserve the right to limit that in any way we deem necessary for his full return."
Wilhoite came into camp as the expected starter along with Bowman, who returned to the playing field for the first time since his injury Saturday. But former sixth-round pick Nick Moody has performed well in practice, and will give Wilhoite a run for that starting job in Eric Mangini's new attacking defense.
Throughout camp, Tomsula has been slow to bring players back dealing with injuries. Just last week Jimmie Ward and Aaron Lynch re-joined full-team drills after spending the first two weeks of camp working on conditioning after participating in individual drills.
That's likely what will happen with Wilhoite this week while the team practices with the Denver Broncos are their facility Wednesday and Thursday before Saturday night's preseason game.
With Bowman's reps limited, Philip Wheeler out and Wilhoite sidelined, Shayne Skov and Desmond Bishop had been getting the majority of snaps in the first two preseason games. But Bishop sustained an apparent fracture in his hand in Sunday's 23-6 win over the Cowboys, that will require surgery, Tomsula said.
"He hurt it during the game, he was playing with it," said Tomsula. "When they come off, they did the exam, checked everything, gox the X-ray. They're going to set that thing. I guess there's a little something in there."
Bishop finished tied with the team lead with four tackles Saturday, including a sack. His full prognosis won't be known until after the surgery, which is expected to take place this week. Wheeler will remain out another week, Tomsula said.
--Tomsula said WR Bruce Ellington and DL Glenn Dorsey will also return to practice this week after dealing with muscle strains. Dorsey had been replaced by Tony Jerod-Eddie and Darnell Dockett with the first team while missing most of the last two weeks. First-round pick Arik Armstead played 44 snaps Sunday after getting 46 in the Texans game.
The 49ers badly need Ellington's return to breathe competition into the third receiver's role. Quinton Patton and DeAndrew White have yet to emerge behind starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. San Francisco expects Ellington to be a key figure in the offense, spending most of his time working in the slot while helping out with the return game.
However, Ellington, who averaged 8.2 yards per punt return, may not get the chance to resume those duties given Jarryd Hayne's explosive start to his football career, where he's averaged 21.6 yards returning punts through two exhibition games.
--TE Vance McDonald suffered an ankle sprain and will get a "couple od days of rest," according to Tomsula ... S Craig Dahl, who had an interception Sunday, sustained a back strain ... WR Chuck Jacobs will be out a few days after spraining an ankle ... DE Cornellius Carradine strained a leg, but will work through the injury this week in practice.
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