By Jerrell Richardson
This is the NFC Championship Game, and there are several injured players on both teams, but as to be expected in a game of this magnitude, everyone is going to be playing. In fact San Francisco does not have a single player listed as even questionable. Mixed in the 19 names on this week’s injury report, are the 49ers’ Justin Smith and Falcons’ John Abraham. Both defensive stars have been limited this week in practice and will not be 100% on Sunday. Smith suffered the more serious injury of the two, but Abraham is yet to test his ankle in game time situations. It’s only Atlanta that is not sure what they are going to get from their defensive play maker and may need to turn to the next man up to fill his void, which is good news for San Francisco.
Falcons Could Be Thin Up Front
If John Abraham had not injured his ankle against the Seahawks last week, the Falcons would have entered this game with no concerns injury wise. As to be expected, immediately after last week’s game, he vowed that he would not miss this all important playoff match up, but he must be careful not to play at the expense of his team. The Atlanta coaches will keep a close eye on him, and the reality is that if he is not able to play, he will leave his team at a disadvantage. However, playing on a bum ankle can make him a liability, and in the end his pride could hurt the Falcons, if he remains on the field, even if his play does not warrant it. The coaches will need to make the decision for him, as if the decision is left up to him; there is no way he does not play in the NFC Championship Game.
The only other starter that was limited in practice this week was Jonathan Babineaux, whose injured shoulder does not figure to really limit his availability for the game. He is listed as questionable, and in the event that he is unable to play, the team should be alright. Babineaux plays a position that the Falcons have plenty of depth at, but then again it’s never good to be without a starter. Although they have the bodies to fill any needed sports, this has the potential of a disaster for the Falcons who already have their issues stopping the run. If both players are not on the field for significant parts of this game, it could spell a huge day for the 49er rushing attack, which is not something Atlanta can’t afford.
49ers Know What They Are Getting Out Of Justin Smith
Although Justin Smith’s triceps’ is going to require surgery, he has played a game with his injury, and knows how effective he will be. With the coaches and his replacement Ricky Jean Francois knowing how much they can expect from Smith everyone can game plan more effectively and feel more comfortable going into this game than they all were a week ago. Justin Smith’s contribution on the field goes well past stats, so if he is on the field, it’s because the coaches feel that he is the best option. When allowed to play Ricky Jean has more then picked up the slack, so it’s not as though the team does not have a viable plan B, further meaning that the more he is on the field in this game, the better he must be playing.
Injuries do not appear to play a huge role in the game, but then again they could have a big effect if John Abraham or Jonathan Babineaux are unable to give their team anything less than four quarters. With no new concerns on the 49er side of the ball, the team is at least prepared for this match up than they were a week ago and have to feel good. Both teams will look to avoid any new injuries, as the winner will be Super Bowl bound.
San Francisco 49ers
Cornerback: Tarell Brown–Shoulder
Fullback: Bruce Miller–Shoulder
Linebacker: Aldon Smith–Shoulder
Guard: Alex Boone–Knee
Linebacker: NaVorro Bowman–Shoulder
Tight End: Garrett Celek–Foot
Cornerback: Chris Culliver–Knee
Safety: Dashon Goldson–Shine
Linebacker: Tavares Goodsen–Knee
Running Back: Frank Gore–Knee
Linebacker: Clark Haggans–Shoulder
Guard: Mike Iupati–Shoulder
Linebacker: Justin Smith–Elbow/Triceps
Linebacker: Patrick Willis–Shoulder
Defensive End: John Abraham–Ankle
Defensive Tackle: Jonathan Babineaux–Shoulder
Cornerback: Christopher Owens–Hamstring
Safety: William Moore–Hand
Linebacker: Stephen Nicolas–foot
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.