San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith suffered what he team was calling an elbow injury in the second half of the teams week 15 win in New England. Smith was inactive for the first time since 2001 in the teams embarrassing loss to the Seahawks in Seattle last week and his status for the playoffs remain uncertain. Details were released today that revealed the extent of his injury.
Smith has a partial tear in his left triceps and had a bone spur attached to a piece of his triceps tendon that became detached in his left elbow. It is fortunate that Smith did not suffer a full tear like linebacker Parys Haralson who was lost for the season before it even started.
Since Smith’s departure, the 49ers have surrendered 73 points in their past six quarters and outside linebacker Aldon Smith hasn’t recorded a sack since the Cowboy went down. The Niners defense which features six pro bowl players has not been the same since Smiths injury.
His return to the lineup will be determined by his ability to regain strength in his left arm. This weekends game against the Arizona Cardinals and the Vikings-Packers match up is extremely important. If the 49ers and Vikings win San Francisco will move into the #2 seed in the NFC and secure a first round bye and home field advantage. Although the 49ers haven’t officially announced it yet Smith will sit out the regular season finale, a first round bye would mean Smith would have almost four weeks to recover before the Niners first playoff game.
The Niners defense really needs to adjust without Smith and may need to call more blitzes to account for Smiths absence. In what has been the leagues top defense this season the Niners defensive unit looked completely different and missed the Cowboy a lot.