GARCIA HAS SPRAINED MCL; HE MAY WEAR BRACE

Jeff Garcia played the final three quarters of Sunday's game at Chicago with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, and the 49ers quarterback said Monday he probably will wear a brace to protect and support the injury the next time he takes the field.

Garcia is listed as probable for this week's home game against the Detroit Lions, but on Monday he was feeling the effects of fighting through the remainder of the 37-31 overtime loss to the Bears with an ailing knee that he hurt when sacked from behind by Chicago defensive tackle Robert Newkirk during the first minute of the second period.

"It feels a little bit worse than it did yesterday," said Garcia, who appeared somewhat hobbled by the injury when he attempted to scramble against the Bears.

He underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam that confirmed the MCL sprain diagnosis. "The stiffness has set in a little bit and it's a little bit sore. But it's pretty much a sprain as far as I'm concerned right now, and I plan on playing Sunday."

Garcia, who wore a sleeve on his knee after injuring it against the Bears, said he will test a brace this week in practice to see how it feels. Niners coach Steve Mariucci indicated Garcia may wear a light brace similar to the one worn Sunday by linebacker Derek Smith, who returned to action against the Bears after tearing the MCL in his left knee on Oct. 3, an injury that forced him to miss two games. Garcia may opt to wear the sleeve again if the brace doesn't work out.

"Most likely, I will wear something on my knee, probably a brace, hopefully a very small brace," said Garcia, who tore the lateral collateral ligament in the same knee in 1997. "And it's something that I'll just practice with a couple of times this week and just see how it feels, see how comfortable I am with it."

Garcia didn't look too comfortable at times against the Bears, but he still was able to move around in the pocket and had another fine game through the air, completing 21 of 29 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions to climb to fifth in the NFL passer ratings.

The 49ers modified their attack somewhat to protect Garcia in the second half, and Mariucci indicated it's possible the team may take a similar approach against the Lions. "It will depend on his knee," Mariucci said. "We moved him less in this (Chicago) game because of his knee than we normally would. We didn't run any quarterback draws, or keeps or naked keeps, those sort of things, because of his knee. But that's what he does best."

Garcia doesn't expect that - or his knee - to be an issue come game time against the Lions. "I don't want to sit here right now and say that it's going to limit my mobility," he said. "I felt that when I needed to move around (Sunday), I moved around and really didn't think about it. I know there were times when I was feeling it a little bit more than other times. But when it came time to having to scramble or moving around in the pocket or do our bootleg fakes, I didn't even think about it and I don't think it limited me at all."

Garcia's backup, second-year player Tim Rattay, is the only other quarterback on the Niners' roster. The Niners' emergency third quarterback is rookie Cedrick Wilson, the team's fourth receiver who returned kickoffs and punts against the Bears in place of the injured Vinny Sutherland.


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