Niners may face Redskins without Bronson

When the 49ers face the pass-happy offensive attack of the Washington Redskins on Sunday, they'll likely be without starting free safety Zack Bronson, who on Monday was listed as doubtful for the game with an AC joint sprain in his shoulder. On the positive side, it appears linebacker Jeff Ulbrich is ready to return to action.

It's a bad time to be losing Bronson, who has played well in the first two games and has helped newcomer strong safety Tony Parrish ease into his position and play a more reckless style that suits his ability.


"He's pretty sore today," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said early Monday afternoon. "If for some reason he can't play, we're going to have to see what we're going to do there at safety."


The Niners have only three safeties on their 53-man roster. When Bronson was injured in the third quarter, third safety Ronnie Heard took his place and was flagged for a critical 39-yard penalty that led directly to a touchdown that put Denver ahead 17-7 in the Broncos' 24-14 victory last Sunday.


If Bronson has not improved significantly when he is reevaluated Wednesday, it is likely the Niners will sign another safety. John Keith could be brought up from the practice squad, but he still does not appear to be ready to step into a game and contribute. And he's a strong safety, not a free safety.


Ulbrich is ahead of schedule in his comeback from a hyperextended left knee and will be listed as probable for the Redskins. "That's great news," Mariucci said. "He practiced a little bit last week and there's a chance he'll play this week. It will be good to have him back."


Backup fullback and special teams standout Paul Smith is the only player listed as out for the Redskins. He strained a hamstring against the Broncos and the team is aiming to get him back for the Rams game after the bye week. Reserve tackle Matt Willig also is listed as doubtful. Kick returner Jimmy Williams (strained scapula) and guard Eric Heitmann (shoulder stinger) both are listed as probable.



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