By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara and unfortunately, the home team will not be as healthy as hoped for this early-season "elimination" game. With both teams coming into the contest with 1-4 records, the loser is surely looking at a long season ahead without hope of postseason glory.
Considering Super Bowl 50 will be played on this same field, and in light of the fact this is a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII, the game result this weekend will be extra depressing for the losing squad. The 49ers definitely wish they were healthier coming into this one while also riding a four-game losing streak.
First, running back Reggie Bush (calf) and offensive tackle Joe Staley (knee) did not practice at all on Thursday. These key injuries could severely hamper the offense's ability to move the ball consistently. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been inconsistent enough on his own, but with Staley nursing an injury, this also could impact the running game. Bush has the potential to be a key cog in this offense, which is why he was signed as a free agent. However, he's had just five touches in five games due to injuries. If Bush can't go again on Sunday, it won't be anything new for the offense. In fact, it will just be another letdown in terms of being able to find some consistent chain-moving rhythm. The offense also may be challenged by the following injuries, each of which forced players into limited participation during Thursday's workouts: Guard Alex Boone (shoulder), tight end Vernon Davis (knee), wide receiver Bruce Ellington (calf), running back Carlos Hyde (foot) and tight end Vance McDonald (chest).
That's a lot of personnel nursing injuries heading into a big game. For a team that's already 29th in total offense this year based on yardage, this is not good news. The 49ers have been playing a lot without Davis, Ellington and McDonald anyway, but they haven't been winning nor have they been scoring a lot. The team is dead last in the NFL at just 15 points per game.
If Hyde struggles with his injury at all, the 49ers are going to be in trouble. The backup running backs just aren't experienced or effective; and with Boone also potentially looking at some plays off with his injury, the whole offense is just lining up at the trainer's table. Imagining this offense healthy is one thing, but losing game after game while hurting is very frustrating.
Alas, injuries are part of the game, of course. The only good news of the week, injury-wise, really is that the defense is healthy for once. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks missed Week 5's game against the New York Giants to attend to family matters after the death of his sister and he is expected to play Sunday. Brooks was a limited participant on Thursday in workouts as he gets himself back into a football mindset after dealing with this tragedy.
This means the defense should be at full strength to challenge Ravens QB Joe Flacco and force him into some silly mistakes. The 49ers have played much better defense at home this season. With that in mind, the team could be on the verge of its first win since Week 1.
Alex Boone, Offensive Guard (shoulder)
Reggie Bush, Running Back (calf)
Vernon Davis, Tight End (knee)
Bruce Ellington, Wide Receiver (calf)
Carlos Hyde, Running Back (foot)
Vance McDonald, Tight End (chest)
Joe Staley, Offensive Tackle (knee)
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.
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