49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media on Wednesday, and based on his comments, it sounds like Justin Smith is more or less set to play on Saturday. Smith has been participating in practices over the last week, and appears likely to wear a brace and start on Saturday. He was listed as limited in today's first official participation report of the week. When asked if he Smith will play on Saturday, Harbaugh said, "God willing and the creek don't rise, he's going to play." Take that however you want.
After two weeks of sitting out practice entirely, his participation the last five or six days should be viewed as a pretty big deal. Harbaugh was asked about his previous comments following the Patriots game, in which he made it sound like Smith would be set to go in Week 16:
At the time I did know the severity of it and felt that with the brace, he would be able to play with what he had. Now, again you're not in somebody else's body. There are strength issues. There has been significant improvement since that time.
Eric Branch views the change since that point as a sign that maybe the injury really has sufficiently healed up and should not be a big problem. At the same time, Harbaugh has been known to play a game or two with injury info in hopes of getting whatever edge he can. I think it is fair to say we won't know until Saturday what to expect from Justin Smith. I realize that is a bit of a Captain Obvious statement, but in light of the speculation we have heard and will continue to hear, I figure I'll just go with that basic statement.