Winborn, Bronson back at practice

One by one, the walking wounded now are running again with the 49ers. And that was a site to behold Thursday in practice as safety Zack Bronson and linebacker Jamie Winborn both joined the defensive huddle for the first time since September. "It's awesome. It's great. I'm exciting to see them back," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said. "We feel a little more complete back there now."

The Niners haven't been complete on defense since Winborn went down with an injury to his left knee during a Sept. 22 win over the Washington Redskins. An even bigger void was created when Bronson broke his left foot during an Oct. 14 win over the Seattle Seahawks.


"Zack was our center fielder back there," Mariucci said. "It would be like the (baseball) Giants playing without Willie Mays."


The Niners have struggled in the secondary since Bronson went down, and when his recovery took longer than expected, the team opted to bring him back slowly over the final weeks so that he'll be ready for San Francisco's playoff opener on Jan. 5.


"I'm happy to be out there again. Right now it's a matter of working myself back into the groove. But even in practice, I feel like it's game time," said Bronson, who returned to practice Tuesday.


After a day off for Christmas on Wednesday, it felt like game time at practice Thursday with the way Winborn was hollering during his first day back on the field.


"Jamie brings a little verbiage to practice," Mariucci said. "He was always talking and running around. He was really fired up to be back out there, like a kid in a candy store. He had a helmet on again. He looks good in a helmet."



Winborn had arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago after 11 weeks of rest failed to heal a pinching sensation in his knee. He says he now is ready to go.


"I didn't try to kill myself, but whenever I'm out there, I'm trying to go," Winborn said. "I got a good sweat, tested my legs, and I felt fine. I feel like I'm able to go out there and play. I feel good about it, and now I'm just waiting for doctors to release me to play and I'll be out there. I'm definitely looking at trying to play in the playoffs."


Bronson and Winborn – both key starters before their injuries – are listed as doubtful for Monday's game against the St. Louis Rams. Mariucci said Winborn would play "under no circumstances." Bronson also is almost certain not to sit out.





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