Talanoa Hufanga details ACL injury recovery but still faces uncertain future

San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (29)
San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (29) / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Talanoa Hufanga is eyeing a return from the torn ACL suffered last year, but his spot on the 49ers depth chart is anything but certain.

The San Francisco 49ers mostly avoided the serious injury but in their run up to the Super Bowl last season.

One such major injury, however, was initially seen as a potentially massive detriment.

All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga suffered a torn ACL in the 10th game of the season, which cast some serious shadows on the Niners secondary's potency. Turns out, however, then-rookie defensive back Ji'Ayir Brown would be more than adequate a replacement. He would remain San Francisco's starter all the way through the Super Bowl.

Plenty of things have changed since the last time Hufanga stepped foot on the playing field. His starting teammate from the last two years, Tashaun Gipson, hit free agency earlier this offseason and remains unsigned. While the 49ers brought back fellow safety George Odum, a special teams ace, they also added a promising rookie in Malik Mustapha, who could eagerly be looking to turn Hufanga into a bit of a roster lame duck.

That's the context in which Hufanga finds himself as he nears full recovery.

Is Talanoa Hufanga on his way out the 49ers' door?

Hufanga, easily a fan-favorite, remains under contract through 2024 but will be a free agent next offseason. Looking at the younger, cheaper duo of Brown and Mustapha, it's not hard to suggest Hufanga won't earn a second contract with the team that drafted him.

That said, Hufanga spoke with reporters during mandatory minicamp this week, and his focus doesn't appear to be on his uncertain future, rather it's about getting back onto the field.

"As a competitor, I would love to say, 'I want to be out there right now,'" Hufanga described. "As my knee goes, it's just a slow progression so you have to hit the stages and check off the stages and check off the boxes before you move to the next one. I do wish I was out there, and I can't wait to be back out there. I tell the guys that all the time. Being patient is a big part of this process."

While Hufanga noted how he's "feeling great," he also pointed out that it might be some time before he's cleared to resume practice, perhaps around training camp, which won't begin until July.

In the meantime, players like Mustapha and Brown will be looking to showcase their own talents, potentially justifying the Niners' future decision to go with them instead of the All-Pro long term.

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