Jennings on IR again; career with 49ers over?

For the third time in his four years with the 49ers, offensive tackle Jonas Jennings' season will end on injured reserve. Jennings, who played only six quarters this season before a dislocated shoulder put him on the shelf, had surgery on Tuesday, and he may never play for the Niners again. Of course, he hasn't played that much for them as it is since joining the team as a high-priced free agent.

Of the 58 games San Francisco has played since making Jennings the first big-ticket item of the Mike Nolan era, Jennings has missed all or parts of 47 of them due to various injuries.

Jennings has injured his right shoulder on three separate occasions, and Tuesday's procedure was the third operation he has had on shoulder, raising the question if it will ever be 100 percent again.

"The thing about it is," Niners general manager Scot McCloughan said Tuesday afternoon, "if the surgery is done accurately and the rehab is done right, from the kid's standpoint of being involved in 100 percent and doing it right, it's not a terminal thing. It doesn't mean you can't play again. Once you get it buckled down and tight, you can play with it and it's fine.

"Now, everybody's build different and some guys are more injury-prone than others. But there's no reason why he can't come back from this once rehab's over and play again. There's no reason, whatsoever."

But there are plenty of reasons why, if Jennings does play in the NFL again, it won't be for the 49ers.

While he contributed to the team when healthy, Jennings lasted more than five games before getting the rest of his season wiped out by injury just once, in 2006. And that alone makes him a huge disappointment for the money the 49ers paid to acquire him in free agency.

Jennings signed a seven-year, $36 million deal with the 49ers on the first day of free agency in 2005. All the guaranteed money in the deal already has been paid to Jennings, and since he's scheduled to earn $4.2 million in salary in 2009, the 49ers are likely to cut their losses with Jennings and release him early next year while they are shaping their 2009 roster.

Jennings contract calls for an option year in 2011, so he has two years remaining on his original deal worth a non-guaranteed $8.5 million.

When asked whether Jennings still has a future with the 49ers, McCloughan's cryptic response suggests that the writing is on the wall.

"We'll address this at the end of the season," McCloughan said. "He's got two years left under contract. Durability has been a question. It's something we're going to address at the end of the season. But as of right now he's a 49er.

"It's not his fault that he got hurt. It's not his fault that the record is the way it is. I think he's done everything in his power to try and get back and try to be able to play for us. When he did play for us he has played well. And we've had success with him as a tackle, and they're hard to find. So again that's kind of why we went in and did the surgery now, so we can get it fixed. We can cross that bridge at the end of the season."

Jennings has been prepared to play the past few weeks with a harness as an emergency tackle. But with Adam Snyder holding up well at right tackle and Barry Sims ready to return from his ankle injury, both Jennings and the 49ers figured it was best for Jennings to have surgery to repair his shoulder, which wasn't going to get better without the procedure, which was performed by Dr. Tim McAdams, the 49ers' orthopedic doctor.

"Surgery was inevitable," McCloughan said. "He knew he needed it once (injured) it. He fought like heck to do the rehab the right way to try to get back out there and try to play. He was set to try to finish the season and play when needed.

"If Snyder wasn't playing the way he's playing and knowing that Barry's coming back and he's healthy this week, it would have been different. I told him for his sake and for our sake, doing the surgery sooner than later is better for the future for everybody. His decision, coaches' decision, doctors' and trainers' decision, and my decision all decided to go ahead and go with the surgery now and get it done before the end of the season."

If Jennings is released in the offseason, he will still count $3.5 million against the 49ers' 2009 salary cap, but the 49ers would realize a cap savings of more than $3 million from his scheduled cap figure of $6.59 million.

***** ***** *****

The 49ers replaced Jennings on the 53-man roster with second-year offensive tackle Jacob Bender, who was signed from the New England Patriots practice squad.

Bender (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) was originally selected by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the 2007 draft out of Nicholls State. He saw action in two games for the Jets as a rookie on special teams as a lineman in field goal formations and was inactive for 14 contests.

Bender was waived by the Jets following training camp in 2008 and was then signed to the New England Patriots practice squad.

Bender has experience at both right and left tackle, and McCloughan said the newcomer "would be considered our fourth tackle now with Sims being healthy."

***** ***** *****

The 49ers won just two of their first nine games of the season. After both of those victories, then-coach Mike Nolan gave the players the day off.

But the day after the 49ers' 35-16 victory Sunday over the St. Louis Rams, interim coach Mike Singletary had his entire team report back to work.

"I feel that the day after the game, I'd like to see the players, and I think that they have something to share with one another," Singletary said. "When you win a game, you want to come in. You just won the game the day before, you come in and talk about it a little bit more."

Although the 49ers snapped a six-game losing streak with the decisive victory over the Rams, Singletary had plenty of issues he wanted to address with his team.

The biggest thing the 49ers did not accomplish on Sunday was "finishing." The 49ers held a 32-point lead at halftime, but saw their level of execution dip dramatically in the second half.

"Finishing meant that at some point in time the offensive line, when we're backed up, that we could put it in their hands and they drive it out," Singletary said.

"Finishing means that we don't jump offside two, three, four times in a row. Finishing means that we don't walk off the field. We jog off the field. Finishing means that however we started the game, we need to end the game stronger than we started. That's finishing."

The 49ers were called for three consecutive false-start penalties in the second half. The 49ers did not score in the second half and managed just 75 offensive yards.

***** ***** *****

The 49ers bounced back from their disheartening last-minute meltdown six days earlier against the Arizona Cardinals. Quarterback Shaun Hill said the 49ers maintained their business-like approach.

"We answered the bell, and we came to work on Wednesday. And we were able to move on," Hill said. "We approached Wednesday as (a normal) Wednesday, and we left the whole game behind us. That says a lot about the character of our team."

ingletary said after the loss to the Cardinals that there would be no carryover to the 49ers' next game. He was correct.

"We talked about mental toughness throughout the week and being able to put a devastating loss behind you and not look in the rearview mirror and have a wreck this Sunday," Singletary said. "So that was the biggest thing that we focused on, and they really pushed hard, pushed through it and it came out today and I thought they did a good job being focused for the most part."

***** ***** *****

Tight end Vernon Davis had some words of "encouragement" for backup running back DeShaun Foster, who fumbled in the fourth quarter after replacing starter Frank Gore.

"It was nothing at all," Davis said. "Me, Frank Gore and DeShaun Foster, we're all family. That's how we push one another."

Davis said he went to Foster and said, "You're better than that." Davis said he encourages Gore and others to challenge him when he drops a pass or runs an incorrect route.

"Frank comes to me all the time," Davis said.

***** ***** *****

Former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce did not have much of an impact in his first game against his former team. Bruce, who played 14 seasons with the Rams before getting released in the offseason, caught just one pass for 20 yards against his former teammates. He played only a minor role as the 49ers snapped a six-game losing streak.

"I'm happy to get the win," Bruce said. "It was interesting. I was happy to see the guys and I miss them. It was good seeing them and I plan on seeing them again in St. Louis."


PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Shaun Hill was perfect in the first half, as he threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns while achieving the highest first-half passer rating in club history: a perfect 158.3. Hill was not asked to do much in the second half. Bryant Johnson had one of his best days of the season, catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Vernon Davis caught a touchdown pass for the second game in a row.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Frank Gore rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not an all-around great day for the backs. Gore and DeShaun Foster each lost a fumble in the game. Also, the 49ers averaged 3.8 yards per-carry in the game. The offensive line did a strong job in the first half, but the play of everyone tailed off after the 49ers built a 32-point lead.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- The 49ers allowed 295 yards passing to Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, but the defense made a lot of plays. Nate Clements and Walt Harris both recorded interceptions that the offense turned into touchdowns. The 49ers also recorded four sacks, and the 49ers increased the pressure as a whole on the quarterback.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Although it wasn't much of a factor in Sunday's game, the 49ers' run defense gave up too many yards. Antonio Pittman, filling in for injured Steven Jackson, rushed for 95 yards on 14 carries. The Rams ran the ball only 23 times, but they picked up eight first downs on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Return man Allen Rossum got the 49ers some good field position. He picked up 40 yards on two punt returns. Kicker Joe Nedney was called upon only for extra points. Andy Lee was not needed to punt in the first half, but in the second half he averaged 51.8 yards (45.3 net) on six attempts.

COACHING: A -- The 49ers had solid game plans on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz was able to use only a fraction of what he had drawn up because coach Mike Singletary ordered him to keep the ball on the ground and be conservative after the 49ers piled up a 32-point lead at halftime. Defensively, the 49ers mixed up their coverages and pass rush to make things difficult on Bulger, who attempted 53 passes.

Niners Digest Top Stories