Newberry scoped

Jeremy Newberry had surgery again Tuesday. The oft-injured 49ers center, coming back from a January operation to reconstruct his left ankle, now is dealing with a problem behind his right patella that's serious enough to require an arthroscopic look and could keep the two-time Pro Bowler out for the entire exhibition season.

"How long (will Newberry be out)? I don't know," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said Tuesday morning. "The biggest thing with Jeremy is he'll be ready to play September 12."

But that Sept. 12 season opener against Atlanta might be the first time anybody sees Newberry dressed out in a full 49ers game uniform. San Francisco's exhibition opener is Saturday against the Oakland Raiders, but the preseason ends for the Niners 19 days later on Sept. 2, and it's questionable if the team would allow the seventh-year veteran back into contact situations so soon after undergoing even minor surgery.

"It depends on how he is," Erickson said. "I'd like to see him play a little bit. If he can't play, he can't play. I'll say this: He's in way better shape than he was a year ago at this time. We'll just have to see what the doctors say after we get the results of the surgery."

Newberry came to training camp saying he was as healthy as he has been in the past three years. He had a torn calf in training camp in 2002, then broke a finger on his right (snapping) hand during the preseason. Last year, he had the ankle problem, and he played through pain the entire season with a completely torn ligament in the ankle. In January, that problem was corrected when team doctors grafted a cadaver's tendon into his ankle.

"The ankle is fine," Erickson said. "All the stuff that he's had surgery on is fine. This is a new thing, a totally new deal. He'd been out there four or five days and practiced pretty well."

Then, Erickson said, Newberry's right knee started "bothering him and irritating him and he got a bunch of fluid in back of his knee."

Team physicians drained the fluid from his knee, and Newberry attempted to rehab the knee last week before doctors determined that they needed to go in and have a closer look at the problem.

"They think there might be some cartilage or stuff underneath that (patella) that just needs to be removed," Erickson said.

Still, given Newberry's difficulty in staying healthy, Erickson admitted there is some apprehension that he has a new nick that's requiring surgery and forcing him to miss extended practice time.

"Hell, yeah, there's concern," Erickson said. "But he's feeling better now than he has for three years. We just have to wait and see."

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