The 49ers have an underrated linebacker available for the NFC Championship game against the Lions, which avoids a notable problem.
On paper, the San Francisco 49ers being without linebacker Oren Burks wouldn't seem like that big of a deal.
After all, the Niners boast two of the NFL's best backers in Dre Greenlaw and All-Pro Fred Warner. Burks isn't exactly someone who'd be in that discussion.
Burks had been dealing with a shoulder injury leading up to San Francisco's NFC Championship bout with the visiting Detroit Lions on Sunday, and head coach Kyle Shanahan officially listed the veteran as questionable on the 49ers' injury report.
On game day, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Burks wasn't likely going to play:
As The Athletic's Matt Barrows pointed out, reserve linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles would likely get the start as the strong-side (SAM) spot in base formations, which the Niners may use a lot to counter how much Detroit likes to run the ball.
Burks has been one of San Francisco's better run-stoppers, which means Flannigan-Fowles will have a good deal of pressure in helping stop the Lions' two-heading rushing monster of running backs David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs.
Additionally, the 49ers promoted another backup linebacker, Curtis Robinson, up from the practice squad ahead of the game so that he could have taken Flannigan-Fowles' spot on special teams.
Update: NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reported that Burks was doing drills on the field in pads, which was a good sign:
Burks subsequently didn't appear on the inactive list, rebuking Schefter's earlier report.
49ers inactives vs. Lions in NFC Championship game
The 49ers ruled the following players as inactive for today's contest:
- QB Brandon Allen (emergency QB)
- OL Matt Pryor
- LB Jalen Graham
- LB Curtis Robinson
- WR Willie Snead
- WR Ronnie Bell
- CB Samuel Womack
Robinson, who was likely to benefit the most from Burks' absence, at least gets a gameday check instead of a practice squad payout.
Burks, meanwhile, likely starts now with Flannigan-Fowles reverting back to a reserve option.
The Niners and Lions are scheduled for kickoff at 6:30 p.m. ET.