Niners hurting at DE; Plummer, Beasley should pla

<P>With Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers up next, the 49ers will need to provide plenty of pass rush to enhance their chances of advancing in the NFC playoffs. But on Monday, they didn't know if they'd have two of their top three defensive ends for Sunday's showdown with the Pack. </P>

John Engelberger and Chike Okeafor, who have shared the starting position at left end, both are listed as questionable for the wild-card game between 12-4 teams. That indicates they have a 50 percent chance of playing. But by the looks of each on Monday, it appears they are more likely to fall under the 50 percent chance of not playing.

Engelberger, who suffered a high right ankle sprain in Sunday's 38-0 blanking of the New Orleans Saints, had a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam on Monday and needed crutches to get around in the locker room. Okeafor, who fractured his right fibula in a Dec. 22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, hasn't practiced since and appears to be another week away from taking the field.

"Really, the question will be at defensive end, if our guys can go," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said. "And only time will tell. We'll have a better feel for it each day. It will depend on if they get any practice time and that sort of thing. If not, if they can't, then we'll have to consider bringing in another defensive end."

The Niners have done that before. In fact, they did it the last time they made the playoffs in 1998, bringing in Charles Haley for a wild-card playoff game against - you guessed it - the Packers. Haley's not an option this time. He's retired.

"I'm anticipating a call from Reggie White, I'm sure," said Mariucci, who presumably was kidding. White's also retired. For the second time. "We've worked out a few guys and we have some ducks in a row, in case we need to go in that direction," Mariucci said. "But no decisions have been made yet. We don't need to be in a hurry. Really, if you're going to add another player at any position, what you can do now in the postseason, is that you can only add one new player per week. So if we did anything, it would be because of our health either at the corner spot or the defensive end spot."

First-year end Bobby Setzer, who has seen some action as a reserve this year and also in place of Engelberger on Sunday, also in an option. The 49ers also use linebacker Julian Peterson at end in some pass-rush situations. Rookie Andre Carter, who leads San Francisco with 6.5 sacks after his two-sack performance against the Saints, starts at right end. Second-year cornerback Ahmed Plummer, who didn't play against the Saints due to a hip injury, said Monday he could have played in that game and will be ready for the Packers. He's expected to return to practice Wednesday after the players' Tuesday day off. "It feels a lot better," he said. "I'm going to give it a go."

Fullback Fred Beasley, who was held out of the Saints game after aggravating his broken right hand the week before, also is expected to be ready against the Packers. "Fred Beasley will play," Mariucci said. "And he will re-do his cast. We were able to keep him from playing and aggravating it any further (against New Orleans). We expect him to start."

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