Newberry faces surgery; 49ers placing C on IR

Now it's Jeremy Newberry's other knee that will prevent him from playing for the 49ers in 2006 and could end his NFL career. The two-time Pro Bowl center will undergo major microfracture surgery on his left knee Tuesday – the same procedure he had on his right knee late last year – and the Niners will place the ninth-year veteran on injured reserve, finishing his season before it ever got started.

Coach Mike Nolan revealed the news late Saturday afternoon during his review of Friday's impressive 28-14 victory over the Chicago Bears in San Francisco's exhibition season opener.

"It's the same issues he was having on the opposite knee," Nolan said. "J needs surgery and I think it's the best thing for him that he gets it. He's been a true warrior for us and helped us a lot last year by battling through the pain to play. It's an extremely emotional time for us and for Jeremy."

Newberry was emotional earlier this week when he spoke with reporters Monday after missing practice for the third consecutive day. He hasn't practiced since the first week of training camp sessions.

Newberry said then that, while his surgically repaired right knee was flaring up, it was a new condition in his left knee that seemed to be bothering him most. A MRI exam revealed deteriorating cartilage in the left knee, the same problem that led to microfracture surgery on his right knee, a procedure that does not have a high success rate of returning players to the field.

Newberry also was placed on injured reserve in 2004 with knee and back problems and played in only one game that season. After fighting valiantly through the pain in a right knee that had virtually no cartilage, Newberry started 10 of San Francisco's first 11 games last season before the team finally placed him on injured reserve because of the condition.

Now he'll begin this season on injured reserve, and his latest injury could spell the end of Newberry's career, since he is having trouble just walking around, more less getting back on the field to push around 300-pound defensive linemen in the NFL trenches.

"I'm not going to say that," Nolan said when asked if the latest setback means Newberry is headed for retirement. "To say something now as if a decision has been made … It has not. We're going to place him on IR and go from there."

Nolan said he will meet with Newberry when the team resumes training camp practice Sunday and finalize what the plan is for him with the team as both parties move forward.

"This is difficult for him," Nolan said. "He's a little emotional about it because it's an emotional decision. He was feeling good physically and feeling good about getting it to work going into training camp. As you well know, he's coming to that age where injuries can keep you from playing."

Especially the kind of injuries Newberry has had during his stellar career with the Niners. His knee operation next week will be the 11th surgical procedure Newberry has had since he joined the 49ers as their second-round draft pick in 1998.

Nolan said David Baas will now see more time at center as the top reserve behind starter Eric Heitmann, with second-year veterans Tony Wragge and Ben Sobieski also figuring into the mix in the new rotation at the position.


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