Another LB gone - Ulbrich opts for surgery

Jamie Winborn – gone from the team. Jeff Ulbrich – gone for the season. Julian Peterson – unable to practice or play because of a hamstring injury. The 49ers linebacker corps – easily San Francisco's deepest and strongest unit – is taking big hits just like other areas of the team. Ulbrich will have season-ending surgery Thursday to reattach his torn biceps muscle in his left arm, leaving the 49ers to go forward in 2005 without two of their original starting linebackers.

The Niners also could be without a third starter when they return from their bye week. Peterson – injured in a Sept. 25 loss to Dallas – aggravated his hamstring strain when he attempted to play last week against Indianapolis. He won't practice this week to rest the injury, and is still questionable to play when the Niners return to action Oct. 23 to play the Redskins in Washington.

Ulbrich, who was hoping to find some way to play the rest of this season with his injury without risking permanent damage to his arm, finally opted for surgery Wednesday – which seemed to be his only rational alternative. He was injured in the second quarter last week against the Colts but played to the end and finished with a game-high 10 tackles.

If Ulbrich attempted to continue playing this year with the injury, doctors told him he would have lost half the strength in his arm for the rest of his life. He waited for days before making a final decision while seeking out other medical opinions.

"I was trying to find a doctor that would say we can go in there 10 weeks from now and fix it, and it will be good as new," Ulbrich said. "I was searching for someone, but it's not out there. It's tough. You put in an entire offseason, and I love playing with these guys. To be on the sidelines is going to be tough."

But not as tough as it will be for the 49ers to have him there. Ulbrich is San Francisco's leading tackler and ranks ninth in the NFL with 41 tackles. Last year, he tied for the team lead with Derek Smith with a career-high 167 tackles.

Fourth-year veteran Saleem Rasheed will take Ulbrich's place in the starting lineup, though that would have been an ideal spot for Winborn to take. Of course, Winborn was traded last week to Jacksonville after it was deemed by coach Mike Nolan there no longer was a place for him on the team after Winborn's unsuccessful trial as a starting linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme.

"I'm going to do my best to fill the void, as far as being somebody the guys can count on," Rasheed said. "It's a big opportunity, but obviously not the way I want it with a guy like (Ulbrich) going out."

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