Niners getting healthy for Saints

According to 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, quarterback Jeff Garcia was better Thursday than the day before as he continues to show daily progress with his right knee injury that necessitated him to wear a brace last week against the Lions.

"It seems to be healing," Mariucci said Thursday of Garcia's injury, a partially torn medical collateral ligament suffered during the Bears game on Oct. 28. "I thought maybe he would have to just nurse the darn thing all season. But it's feeling better and better all the time. ... Eventually the brace is going to come off. But right now, I think Jeff's planning on using it one more time."

In other injury news:

--- Right tackle Scott Gragg's bruised right knee had some ugly shades of purple running through it this week, but he'll be ready to play against the Saints on Sunday. "It's not really a mobility issue," Gragg said. "It's a pain issue." Gragg said he may wear a sleeve or a brace on his knee similar to the one worn by Garcia.

--- Defensive tackle Reggie McGrew, who has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle, has been able to practice this week and may be ready to return against New Orleans. "I think he's got a chance this week," Mariucci said, "or next week for sure."

--- Rookie defensive end Andre Carter has a sprained thumb, but he had it heavily padded and taped this week and it did not hamper him in practice. Tackle Derrick Deese (strained elbow), running back Garrison Hearst (knee), wide receiver Terrell Owens (ankle) also weren't hindered in practice by their minor injuries and all will start against the Saints.

--- Backup center Ben Lynch, who hasn't played since the Carolina game on Oct. 7 due to a severe ankle sprain, returned to practice this week and could be ready to play in the road rematch against the Panthers on Nov. 18.

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