Even though the San Francisco 49ers laid a beat down on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, the Niners did not come away full winners. Today, Jim Harbaugh announced fullback Bruce Miller injured his left scapula against the Bucs and it “doesn’t look good” for him to return for the final two games of the season.
Miller suffered his injury in the fourth quarter. He took a hard hit from Buccaneers safety Keith Tandy on the sidelines after catching a pass for a 10-yard gain. Harbaugh talked about Miller’s injury on Monday and he was not optimistic about the fullback returning:
It looks like he has an injury to his scapula. We have a pretty good idea. We won’t say anything officially, but it doesn’t look good for now. It’s something he’ll heal from.
The fact that Harbaugh divulged that much information about Miller’s injury was surprising, given his history on being vague about injuries to his players. But I guess that shows how serious the injury is and that Miller might be done for the season, including the playoffs.
The 49ers have mostly done a good job this season dealing with injuries. Some of the backups on the roster — like at outside linebacker, nose tackle and left guard — have stepped up and filled the void like the original starter was never hurt. But this will be harder to replace Miller because there are no immediate good options available on the 53-man roster or the practice squad. In addition to being a great run-blocker, Miller was also a viable receiving option with 25 receptions for 243 yards. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2012 and was having one of his best seasons in his career.
Officially, Anthony Dixon is second on the depth chart at fullback and he replaced Miller in the game against the Bucs. Dixon has shown great power-running skills when given a chance, but he has not been used much as a receiving option. In four seasons in San Francisco, he has caught seven passes for 20 yards. However, when Harbaugh talked about Miller’s injury he said we “could get creative with other guys on the team.” That is not exactly a glowing endorsement for Dixon taking over the starting job.
San Francisco will likely sign former Stanford fullback Owen Marecic as another replacement for Miller. Marecic was waived by the Niners on October 1. Harbaugh, who coached Marecic at Stanford, said he was “hopefully en route” to the team’s facility and that he would take a physical as soon as he arrived.
Still, whether it’s Dixon or Marecic, they are not an equal substitute for Miller’s talent as a multi-use player on offense.