Garcia winning battle of wounded knee

A gimpy-kneed Jeff Garcia?

You wouldn't have known it by watching the 49ers quarterback in action last week against the Detroit Lions. And you certainly wouldn't have known it by watching him in action Wednesday as the Niners returned to practice and began preparing for Sunday's pivotal NFC West clash with the New Orleans Saints.

 "Last week, I didn't even practice on this day," Garcia reminded everybody Wednesday afternoon. A week later, Garcia not only is practicing, but also nearing full recovery from a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee that he suffered early in the second quarter in an Oct. 28 game at Chicago. He finished that game and has not missed one play since the injury occurred.

"The knee's getting better every single day," Garcia said. "It's healing the way it needs to be healing. I didn't worsen it by taking any blows to the knee (against Detroit). I was fortunate I came out of it healthy and I feel good. It's just going to continue to get better. I'm going out there and doing everything that I expect to do in Sunday's game today (in practice). I'm not allowing it to hamper me at all."

Garcia's knee was heavily taped against the Lions, and he also wore a knee brace over the tape. Needless to say, that restricted his mobility. Garcia said, "eventually, I'll be able to put the knee brace to the side," but he wasn't sure if it would be this week or not. The decision to wear a brace against the hard-charging New Orleans defense probably will be made at the end of the week or on game day.

"Physically, it restricts you," Garcia admitted. "With my knee taped up under the brace, it was kind of like a double constriction." Garcia expects to be at least somewhat less constricted this week, and that improvement in his mobility couldn't come soon enough. "This would be a good week to have a mobile quarterback, huh?" Niners coach Steve Mariucci said, obviously aware that the Saints rank third in the NFL in sacks per play. "He feels much better than a week ago at this time. I think it's going to be something that he nurses along here for a while - tape him, brace him, rest it, don't overdo it. We'll just play that by ear each week."

Mobile or not, Garcia - and, actually, he looked quite mobile as the Detroit game progressed - was able to complete 26 of 35 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions. That efficient outing elevated him to third in the NFL passer rankings with a season-best 94.2 rating.

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