Fooch's Update: Welp, sounds like Willis is finished for the season
The San Francisco 49ers defeated the New Orleans Saints on Sunday without the services of linebacker Patrick Willis. This marked the third straight game he has sat out due to a toe injury suffered in Week 6 against the St. Louis Rams. Prior to Sunday's win over the Saints, Jay Glazer reported that Willis could miss significant time with the injury.
Two days after Willis suffered the injury, Jim Harbaugh said he would not characterize the injury as turf toe. However, barring something unforeseen, it would seem like at this point it is a severe case of turf toe. My guess is at the time, Harbaugh was hoping for better news, and thus said he would not characterize it as such.
Following Harbaugh's radio interview in which he made those comments, socalisteph put together a rundown on turf toe, comparing the situations of Willis and cornerback Tramaine Brock. The 49ers lost cornerback midway through Week 1, and he did not return until Week 7. And even then it appeared that the team rushed him back. He subsequently sat out Week 9, and returned in a limited role in Week 10.
At the time of her article, socalisteph suggested Willis might have a Grade 2 injury. If it is in fact turf toe, and not some mystery toe injury, the extended absence would indicate a Grade 3 injury. Willis has missed three games plus the bye week. If it is similar to Brock's toe injury, Willis could end up missing at least another week or two of action.
Fortunately for the 49ers, Chris Borland has been an absolute hoss the last two weeks. He has 35 tackles in those two games, and has been downright dominating in stopping the run. Combine that with Wilhoite playing solid enough football, and the 49ers are in a position where they do not have to rush Willis back. I would prefer Willis be back in the lineup, but as we saw with Brock, there is no point in rushing Willis back. An aggravation of the injury would only cost him more time. The 49ers are getting solid play from their linebackers, so there is no need to hurry anything.
The 49ers will release their first practice participation report of the week on Wednesday. If Willis is not practicing, I would imagine he will once again be listed as questionable for Sunday against the New York Giants.