Regardless if the NFL lockout ends and a 2011 season begins 49ers center Eric Heitmann will be on the sidelines because of recent neck surgery. Heitmann suffered two injuries in training camp last season, a neck injury and then a broken left leg, which caused him to miss the season. His agent said the surgery repaired a ruptured disk in the centers neck and it will take six months for him to recover.
Heitmann was the 49ers iron man from 2004 to 2009 only missing two games because of injury. He played well during those years and held together a weak offensive line. He was expected to come back for 2011 and reclaim the starting role at center. Heitmann’s replacement last season David Baas played well despite having not played many games at center. Baas is a free agent who the 49ers needed to sign even before Heitmann’s injury.
There is urgency in signing Baas as last years backup Tony Wragge is also a free agent. The only two options as of now for the 49ers are rookies Daniel Kilgore and Micahel Person. Baas will stand out in the free agent market as the talent pool at center is shallow and he will have his fair share of suitors.
This is not good news for the 49ers since Baas and Wragge are not guaranteed to re-sign. The 49ers will most likely sign one of the available free agents if both are not back next season. However it would be best for the development of the offensive line to have Baas back and take over as the starter at center.