SANTA CLARA (CBS 5 / AP) — If San Francisco is able to pick up the pieces of its shattered early season and win the NFC West, it will have to do it without star running back Frank Gore.
Gore’s season is over – and what a hit for the San Francisco offense.
The 49ers placed Gore on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday. Gore fractured his right hip during the Niners’ 27-6 win at Arizona on Monday night and was scheduled to undergo further tests to determine the severity of the injury.
The team made the announcement less than two hours after Mike Singletary’s weekly news conference, then released a statement from the coach.
“It is unfortunate that we had to place Frank on IR,” Singletary said. “He is not only a great football player, but a tremendous leader. He plays with such passion and desire, two traits that will serve him well as he recovers from the injury.”
Singletary said he wasn’t sure when Gore got hurt. The two-time Pro Bowler, in his sixth NFL season, ran for 853 yards and three touchdowns this season and also caught a team-leading 46 passes for 452 yards and two TDs. Gore’s 24 100-yard rushing games are the most in 49ers franchise history.
Losing him is a big blow for San Francisco, which at 4-7 is only a game out in the NFC West despite an 0-5 start.
The 49ers actually hid Gore’s helmet from him on the sideline because he wanted to stay in the game.
San Francisco also placed wide receiver Dominique Zeigler on IR with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
For now, Brian Westbrook and rookie Anthony Dixon will be called upon to carry a bigger load as the 49ers make a quick turnaround to play at Green Bay on Sunday. Westbrook had all of 10 touches this season before carrying 23 times for 136 yards Monday, though Singletary wants to be cautious not to overwork Westbrook and risk injury.
“Frank is a big part of what we do – heart, soul, everything he brings is what you want,” Singletary said. “But thankfully, Brian Westbrook is a mature, experienced leader and we just have to be careful about how we use him and how much exposure we allow him to see. I think there will be a good mixture between Brian Westbrook and Dixon. We’ll just have to see how we do that.”
Westbrook, who sustained two concussions last season, had the most yards and carries – in fact the fourth-most rushes of his career – against the Cardinals since Dec. 7, 2008, when he had 33 carries for 131 yards against the Giants.
“I saw him a couple of times on the sideline, and he gave me a couple of ideas of different things to do,” Westbrook said of Gore’s influence. “Frank is a competitor. He wants to be out there.”
So does Westbrook, who came to San Francisco for a fresh start.
The 31-year-old Westbrook was released by the Philadelphia Eagles in February after an injury-filled 2009 season. He wound up with the 49ers after talking to several coaches from various franchises.
Westbrook led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage in 2007, but missed eight games last season with a pair of concussions and an ankle injury while scoring only two touchdowns.
Singletary said 23 carries could be too much of a load for Westbrook at this stage of the season even considering he hasn’t had much time on the field so far.
Westbrook began this season having rushed for 5,995 yards and 37 touchdowns on 1,308 carries in eight NFL seasons, all with the Eagles, and also caught 426 passes for 3,790 yards and 29 TDs.
“I used to choose the Eagles whenever I played Madden Football, just so I could be Brian Westbrook,” rookie offensive lineman Anthony Davis said after Monday’s game.
Also Tuesday, Singletary declared kicker Joe Nedney healthy and ready to return from a right knee strain and bone bruise. San Francisco waived his two-week fill-in, Shane Andrus.
The 49ers promoted safety Chris Maragos and running back DeShawn Wynn from the practice squad and released tackle Xavier Fulton from the practice squad.
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