Greenlaw had three early tackles and was the enforcer that he had always been during the season. Then, the most devastating injury of the season happened. Replacing his injury — and skill — is impossible. It wasn’t the reason the 49ers came up short, but the emotions of losing one of your best players can’t go unnoticed.
Nick Bosa spoke about the difficulties of continuing to be enthusiastic without Greenlaw:
“It was hard. Sometimes, when things like that happen, it could sway the momentum just because it’s such an emotional feeling. But I do think we did a good job continuing to play the way we were playing. And Dre is a one-of-one human being. He was pushing through so much this year. And I think 99 percent of players wouldn’t have been able to do what he did. And he put his body on the line for this, and it sucks that we can’t get him one.”
Here’s Arik Armstead:
“Dre’s obviously an amazing player. He is one of the best players on our team and one of the best linebackers in the NFL, so he’s our enforcer and our tone setter. Not having him is a huge loss. I am proud of the way the guys stepped up. Flannigan-Fowles and Oren Burks both stepped up. I think they played extremely well in his absence, but obviously, Dre is an amazing player.”
Fred Warner has a special bond with Greenlaw. He was emotional at halftime: “I’m sick to my stomach. I’m still sick. I see him at halftime, and I’m crying ‘cause I’m so hurt for him and obviously wanting to win this for him and...sickening.”
Recovery timelines vary on the athlete. If the injury is treated properly and there are no setbacks, Greenlaw can return to normal activity anywhere between four to six months. There is a risk of a recurrent rupture, and the returning athlete may have reduced strength and endurance by up to 30 percent compared to uninjured players.
We can point to three recent Achilles, all running backs, as examples. Then, the Chicago Bears' running back Tarik Cohen, the New York Giants’ James Robinson, and the Baltimore Ravens’ Justice Hill all suffered an Achilles tear.
Hill missed the first half of the following season, and now that he’s a full season removed from the injury, he still has his athleticism. Again, it depends on the athlete. Dre is one of the best, so perhaps he’ll bounce back and not lose a step.