By Sam McPherson
The good news on the injury front for the San Francisco 49ers this week is that the team has just three players on the injury report as they make final adjustments before facing the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. The bad news is that the 49ers lost 11 players to season-ending injuries this year, helping to doom them to a 4-11 record as they get ready to play the last game of the season.READ MORE: 'Amazon One' Contactless Payment Palm Reader Debuts On Santana Row In San Jose
Lost contributors this season include safety Antoine Bethea (shoulder), offensive lineman Alex Boone (knee), running back Reggie Bush (knee), running back Carlos Hyde (foot) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (shoulder). In addition, the 49ers lost two more RBs and a key tight end (Garrett Celek, ankle) to injury. Yes, it’s been that kind of year in San Francisco.
The opening game of the season illustrates just how good a healthy 49ers team might have been in 2015: The 49ers, led by Hyde and Kaepernick, registered a dominant 20-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco ran up 395 yards on offense and held the Vikings to just 248 yards on defense.
Fast forward to Week 17, and Minnesota is 10-5, tied for first place in the NFC North Division with the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings are headed to the postseason. The 49ers, on the other hand, are in last place among NFC West teams and headed toward a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft come April.
However, in regards to the upcoming Week 17 game against the Rams, there are just three players to discuss: defensive lineman Quinton Dial (back), center Marcus Martin (concussion) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite (ankle). All three are listed as questionable for the Sunday match-up against longtime division rival St. Louis.READ MORE: UPDATE: Oakland City Council Meeting Debates Adding Police After Spike in Homicides
Dial and Wilhoite did not practice at all on Wednesday or Thursday, which doesn’t bode well for their chances to see the field this weekend. Dial hasn’t missed a game all season, piling up 59 tackles and 2.5 sacks this year, while starting all 15 previous games. The 49ers are thin on the defensive line already, and Dial will be missed if he cannot play against the Rams.
Likewise, Wilhoite’s absence is a tough one, as he started the first 12 games of the season before missing three in a row due to this ankle problem. His 85 tackles were in the Top 10 of the NFL after the first dozen games, and no defense can absorb the loss of a tackling machine like that. Of course, the 49ers lost all three games Wilhoite has missed, giving up 80 points combined.
On the offensive side, Martin was limited in workouts this week, and he missed last week’s game in Detroit after starting the first 14 games of the season. There’s a chance Martin might play in Week 17, but with the 49ers having little to play for, it would make more sense for the center to just let the season end without him so he can be ready for 2016.
Quinton Dial, Defensive Lineman (back)
Marcus Martin, Center (concussion)
Michael Wilhoite, Linebacker (ankle)
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.