SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Joe Staley's left leg was in a plastic protective boot Monday afternoon. He was still carrying around crutches. But the San Francisco 49ers aren't going to put their left tackle on the injured reserve list, which would prevent him from returning this season -- at least not yet.
Why? Because coach Mike Singletary is hopeful his team will make the playoffs and that Staley will heal quickly enough to play in them if they do.
Both are longshots, but Staley said he wants to see how quickly he can recover from a broken fibula in his left leg and rejoin his teammates.
"I don't know how these things work," Staley said. "They said 4-6 weeks, so I'll try my damndest to get back as soon as I can."
If Staley is able to come back in six weeks, he might be able to play in the 49ers' Dec. 26 game against the St. Louis Rams. It would also make him available for the regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 2. The Niners are 3-6 and trail the first-place Seattle Seahawks (5-4) by two games in the NFC West.
Staley said he sustained the injury when his leg collided with the leg of Rams defensive end James Hall on an attempted cut block in the fourth quarter. He went to the locker room for an X-ray, which he said was negative, and returned to the field.
When the Niners scored a touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Troy Smith to Michael Crabtree, Staley said, "That's when I could feel it moving. I don't think it was fully broken. I think it was cracked at that point. I think the touchdown play is when I knew, 100 percent, it was broken."
With Staley out, Singletary said he has several options for a starter at left tackle. Adam Snyder, who started at right guard but came out of the game after suffering a right shoulder sprain, is one. So is Barry Sims, who has been inactive for all but one game this season. Snyder is expected to be recovered in time for Sunday's home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There's also Tony Wragge, who is primarily a backup at center and guard but who played left tackle when Snyder left the game.
FINE TIME: Linebacker Travis LaBoy said he expects to be fined by the league after he was called for a roughing the passer penalty on a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rams QB Sam Bradford in the second quarter. But like most defensive players, he said it isn't easy trying to change the way he's always played the game.
"From high school on up, they teach you to put the crown of your helmet on the other guy's chest," LaBoy said. "How do you take back 15 years of muscle memory on how to tackle people?
"They want guys to adjust their bodies in mid-air. Superman can't do that stuff – how am I supposed to?"