The 49ers have no significant injuries among their front-line players entering Sunday's showdown against the Rams, and they may even have backup tailback Kevan Barlow available when the two NFC front-runners meet in St. Louis.
Coach Steve Mariucci said on Monday that Barlow, who the night before missed a 35-0 rout of Buffalo with a dislocated shoulder, would return to practice on Wednesday.
"We'll get that arm out of the sling and see where it takes us," Mariucci said. "And away we go." Mariucci said the Niners were as healthy this week as perhaps they ever have been in his five seasons as the team's coach.
Fullback Fred Beasley was the only player listed on the injury report after the Bills game, and his shoulder stinger seemed to be OK on Monday, Mariucci said. Even the San Francisco players who played with minor ailments Sunday seemed to be better on Monday as the Niners prepared for their biggest game since 1998 and one of the biggest games in the NFL so far this season.
For the first time in five games, quarterback Jeff Garcia played Sunday night without a brace on his right knee, in which Garcia had suffered a partially torn medial collateral ligament in an Oct. 28 game at Chicago. Garcia said he is feeling fine now, and star receiver Terrell Owens - who played Sunday night with a sprained ankle and sprained foot - also is feeling OK.
Rookie defensive end Andre Carter returned against the Bills after missing the previous week's game at Indianapolis. He was feeling "pretty good" Monday. John Engelberger, the starting end opposite Carter, is nursing a heel injury, but also should be ready for the Rams.
"He might gimp around for a day or two, but he should be fine," Mariucci said. Safety Lance Schulters, who dislocated his shoulder in October, is holding up well with an injury that may require surgery after the season. The Niners don't have any other injuries that require close inspection this week. "We've had our share of injuries," Mariucci said. "But, comparatively speaking, to last year and the year before, we're pretty darn (healthy)."