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The San Francisco 49ers were dealt another critical blow with news that Jeremy Newberry would have to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday. The operation will tighten the kneecap and add stability for the Pro Bowl center. According to Newberry, it is a surgery that could have a recovery time of 6 to 12 weeks, with the possibility of even ending his season.
It's not a simple matter of playing through the pain as Newberry has done with past injuries. According to head coach Dennis Erickson, Newberry, who is considered one of the toughest players on the team, is extremely bothered by this latest setback. Playing through it is not an option and may even cause further injury to the valuable offensive lineman.
This is not good news for the two time Bobb Mckittrick Award winner or for the 49ers, a team that has been ravaged by injuries so early in the season. While fullback Fred Beasley could return on Sunday to help with the blocking duties and acting as a personal snowplow for running back Kevan Barlow, the team lost starting quarterback Tim Rattay during Sunday's 19-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Rattay injured his right shoulder and was injected with painkillers during halftime. To make matters worse, Rattay was forced to return and play through the injury when backup quarterback Ken Dorsey was knocked out of the game. However, Dorsey is expected to be fine for Sunday and will get the start against the New Orleans Saints.
On defense, the 49ers have lost defensive end Andrew Williams to a lower leg fracture. The team hoped Williams would contribute greatly this season on a defensive line that was already hurting at depth. This Sunday, the team will also be without starting defensive end Andre Carter who has a back injury and staring cornerback Mike Rumph who is nursing a groin injury. Both injuries occurred during the team's first regular season game.
The Newberry injury is a tough loss for a number of reasons. Prior to the 49ers' matchup with the Falcons on Sunday, Newberry walked through the restaurant of the Airport Marriott in Burlingame, California on his way to the game. He stopped to talk with a group of fans eating breakfast. One had a simple question and the same question that was likely in the minds of 49ers fans everywhere at that moment, "Are we going to win today?" Newberry's answer was simple, "Of course!"
While Newberry's prediction did not come true, it wasn't so much the content of the response, but the way he said it that gave off a level of confidence and leadership. Newberry, an admired veteran on the team, is not only considered the 49ers' best offensive lineman, but he is a great leader and brings a higher level of confidence to the young players around him. It is tough to predict what will happen to the offensive line's chemistry without the skill and leadership that Newberry brings onto the field.
Without Newberry, the team has lost three starters from just a season ago. The other two being left tackle Derrick Deese and right guard Ron Stone who were both released during the offseason.
Brock Gutierrez, the former Bengal who will start in place of Newberry, had this to say, "If in fact Jeremy's going to be out for a while, obviously (losing) a guy like Jeremy hurts the team, but I think I can go in and get some things accomplished and keep this offense going where it needs to go."
"He's played center in this league for seven or eight years, I believe," Erickson said of Gutierrez. "I have all the confidence in the world in him. He's ready."
During the loss to the Falcons, the offensive line looked as though they were trying to gel and learn to play together as a team. Barlow was not able to run the ball effectively for most of the game and the 49ers' quarterbacks had pressure on them all day. Without Newberry, an important part of the 49ers' inside running game and pass blocking plans, this will only set the team back more. For a team that many in the media predicted to have a less than stellar season, the loss of Newberry among others will not convince these same individuals otherwise.
Did you know?
- Jeremy Newberry is living a dream. The California native has been a 49ers fan since he was a kid.
- Newberry was rated one of the top five heavyweight wrestlers in California as a senior at Antioch High School in Contra Costa County.
- Until the 49ers drafted tackle Kwame Harris in 2003 and guard Justin Smiley in 2004, Newberry was the first offensive lineman selected by the 49ers in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft since first rounder Harris Barton in 1987.