49ers opener: Injury analysis & status report

Status reports and analysis on who's injured, who will play and how much, who won't play, and who is likely to be held out for Friday night's preseason opener between the 49ers and Chicago Bears at Monster Park in San Francisco.

Coach Mike Nolan said the Niners are going to try to get 25 to 30 plays with their starters on both sides of the ball, but that doesn't mean all healthy starters and key players will participate in the first of the team's four exhibition games. Here's a rundown on each player whose status and amount of playing time is in question for tonight's game.

QB Trent Dilfer: Though Dilfer has looked solid in training camp and certainly could play tonight, Nolan has seen lingering traces to suggest Dilfer isn't 100 percent recovered from his arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this year, and that's as good a reason as any to keep him out of the first preseason game. "He's doing very well, but I don't know that he needs too much of this early preseason work," Nolan said. "It remains to be seen. He might play." Take that to mean Dilfer won't play, and we'll be seeing Jesse Palmer and Shaun Hill working in after starter Alex Smith's stint is done early in the second quarter.

DE Bryant Young: Young has been bothered by a minor groin injury, and the 49ers have been particularly intent on keeping the 13th-year veteran healthy this summer. He may start the game, but expect to see him on the field for only a few defensive series if he does.

LB Derek Smith: Bothered by a quad contusion, Smith is healthy enough to start, but he'll be the first linebacker from the front-line unit to come out of the game and may just play a few series.

G Larry Allen: The big boy is being paced in training camp and the 49ers don't want to expose him to much meaningless action early in the preseason, saving him for the real deal in September instead. He'll be one of the first offensive starters removed from the game.

DB Walt Harris: Though the Niners need to see as much of Harris as they can to make sure he's the man they want starting the season on the right corner, they also intend to pace the 11th-year veteran and not expose him early in the preseason, which means Harris will be coming out early ahead of the other front-line defenders.

WR Arnaz Battle: The condition of Battle's troublesome right knee continues to bear watching, and while he can make the opening call tonight, he's another player the 49ers mean to protect in the preseason. You definitely won't see Battle doing anything extra-curricular such as returning punts.

C Jeremy Newberry: The two-time Pro Bowler missed practice for the fifth consecutive day on Thursday and will not play in tonight's game. Though he has gotten better toward the end of the week and is walking again without limping, Newberry may never play in another game with the 49ers because of the deteriorating condition of both his knees.

G Ben Sobieski: He will not play in the game because of a stinger. Sobieski is a second-year player who is getting a serious look at the three interior offensive line positions and could be a candidate to fill the roster spot that figures to be vacated if Newberry no longer can play. Sobieski, however, will have to wait until next week's exhibition against the Oakland Raiders to show his stuff. He missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and, while the Niners hoped he'd be ready by game time, that's not going to happen.

CB B.J. Tucker: The second-year veteran, who is making a summer push to become prominent in San Francisco's secondary packages as a nickel and dime cornerback, continues to nurse a sore ankle and his status will be a game-time decision. Though Tucker is one young player who figures to get extensive preseason action as the 49ers evaluate their secondary, expect him to sit out tonight to give his ankle more time to heal.

LB Jeff Ulbrich: The scrappy seventh-year veteran had a stomach virus that kept him out of the morning practice Wednesday, but he returned later that afternoon and has been given a clean bill of health. He'll start and go the full stint with the first-team defense.

Others: DE Jerry DeLoach will be out another two weeks with a sprained MCL, and he may never see the field for the 49ers this summer … LB Andre Torrey was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after tearing the ACL in his knee … PK Luis Berlanga, whom the 49ers hope to see in a preseason game, continues to remain in his homeland of Mexico while he waits for his working visa. Berlanga has yet to report to the 49ers this summer and he obviously won't be a part of the team in September, but the Niners will still take a look as long as his arrival isn't delayed much further.


Niners Digest Top Stories