Before the 2010 season began, the slogan among some players of the Green Bay Packers was "Super Bowl or die". Before the regular season was over, the Green Bay Packers had placed 15 players on injured reserve. Six of those had been week 1 starters. They lost their top running back in the first game of the season. They lost their top returning tackler, their right tackle, and their starting safety in week 4. The next week, they lost their tight end. In week 14, Aaron Rodgers sustained his second concussion of the season. Given the extent of injuries, the Packers defied logic and were able to hang on and advance all the way to a title.
The Packers withstood one of the largest plague of injuries to hit a team in one season. All teams experience injuries, but extensive losses can significantly cripple playoff hopes. When fans defend their team's performance, or lack thereof, on injuries -- they unwittingly point to a weakness. Teams must be able to identify, treat, and withstand injuries. Only the best teams account for the inevitability that players are going to be lost for injury. This fact gives those teams a substantial edge. A title contender simply cannot afford to make medical mistakes.
We cannot ignore the 49ers early injury woes. It is more than fair to say injuries have contributed to our less than stellar performances this season. While those injuries have been unfortunate, the 49ers must plow through using roster depth and good coaching. The 49ers have one of the deepest rosters in the league, one that is engineered to keep rolling through injuries.
In the off season, both Vic Fangio and Jim Harbaugh made a point of coaching every player to do everything. Some questioned the decision to work safeties in different defensive capacities. While it is true the starter got his practice reps, but so did backups. And, their backups got reps as well.
The 49ers have two wide receivers on its Reserve/PUP list, i.e., Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. On the Reserve/NFI list are Eric Wright (CB), Marcus Lattimore (RB), Luke Marquardt (OT), Quinton Dial (DL), and Tank Carradine (DE). These players are ineligible to practice or participate in game action for the first six weeks of the season.
We also have Aldon Smith (LB) added to the NFI list, but given the personal nature of his absence, the league will allow him to return once he is ready. There will be no six week stipulation like the players added to PUP and NFI at the start of the season.
On the Injured Reserve (IR) list, the 49ers have Chris Culliver (CB), Darcel McBath (S), Brandon Carswell (WR), Alex Debniak (FB), Darius Fleming (LB), Lamar Divens (DT), Lawrence Okoye (DE), and Ian Williams (NT). They have been lost for the season as the 49ers did not arrange any sort of injury settlement. We have also utilized our one Injured Reserve/Return Designation on Nick Moody, and he will be eligible to return at least eight weeks after his placement on the list.
Additionally, the 49ers have carried LaMichael James on its 53-man roster while he recovers from the MCL sprain suffered against the San Diego Chargers in the preseason finale. We await word on his status for Thursday Night Football.
In addition to the aforementioned 13 injured players, we have the following listed as questionable to play in tonight's game against the St. Louis Rams -- CB Nnamdi Asomugha (CB), Anthony Davis (T), Vernon Davis (TE), Raymond Ventrone (S), Kyle Williams (WR), and Patrick Willis (LB). That makes the running total 19 injured.
Other injured players appearing on the injury report are Navorro Bowman (LB), Jonathan Goodwin (C), Frank Gore (RB), Mike Iupati (G), Ray McDonald (DT), Carlos Rogers (CB), and Justin Smith (DT), but it is probable they will play through what is ailing them.
Circumstances have changed. The 49ers are not going to show up to every game as a powerhouse they once were. Formidable, significant play makers are injured and/or inactive. The team will lose games we might have otherwise expected them to win. Even small injuries take a toll. The head space of an injured player, even with an insignificant injury, can adversely affect a game. For example, consider Aldon Smith. It is not far-fetched to believe his off the field muddy decision-making weighed heavily on the team's psyche. Everyone's head must be in the game. Injuries and pain management plays a huge role in every game.
At this juncture, we need to focus on making it through week six, after which a host of previously injured players (listed on the Reserve/PUP and Reserve/NFI) will be made available once again. With hopes to plug them in effectively, we can focus on making it into the playoffs. The 49ers may not have the prettiest record, but as long as the team gets a spot -- we can prove the importance of not being paralyzed by injuries. Like the Packers, we will take one game at a time and focus on our long term goal -- a sixth championship.