The injuries keep mounting for the 49ers.
Thursday, Chris Culliver looked like he seriously injured his left knee during a punt coverage drill and needed to be carted off the field. He was unable to put any weight on his left leg and was consoled on the sideline by general manager Trent Baalke.
According to various reports, Culliver's MRI revealed a torn ACL effectively ending his season.
Culliver is coming off a very strong season with the 49ers and was a key piece of the defense that ranked third in the league in scoring and sixth against the pass. With his injury, the 49ers were down four starters on defense with Patrick Willis sidelined with a fractured hand and NaVorro Bowman working through a strained groin. Aldon Smith has also been absent but the team has not issued an update on his status. Smith and Bowman were both in the weight room during practice while Willis was on the sideline with his hand wrapped in a small cast.
The silver lining to Culliver’s injury has been the early play of veteran Nnamdi Asomugha, who has put together a strong training camp since joining San Francisco on a one-year, $1.78 million contract in the spring. The former four-time All-Pro has transitioned well to Vic Fangio’s scheme, although it’s worth noting he’s looked strong against a depleted wide receiving corps that’s currently missing five of it’s top-six players with injuries.
The 49ers could also take another look at Eric Wright, the corner they traded for but failed his physical sending him back to Tampa Bay. He remains a free agent and Baalke said the team would not close the door on potentially bringing him in after the trade was nullified.
Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins and Kassim Osgood all missed practice again while dealing with what appear to be minor ailments. Mario Manningham also remains out but is expected to be back practicing before the start of the regular season while recovering from season-ending knee injury that kept him out of the playoffs.
According to multiple reports, free agent wide receivers Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie are set to work out with the 49ers later this week.
Confirming what Vic Fangio said earlier in the week about the defense rotating safeties with the first team, Trenton Robinson started team drills working along side Donte Whitner with the first team defense. However, safety was a revolving door Thursday and snaps were divided up pretty equally between Robinson, C.J. Spillman Craig Dahl and rookie Eric Reid.
With Willis and Bowman out, rookie Nick Moody and second-year inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite received reps with the first team defense. Moody played Willis’ “Jack” position while Wilhoite played Bowman’s “Mike.”
“Every time you turn on the TV there’s always somebody hurt,” Moody said “It’s the nature of the game, people are going to be hurt. Hopefully everybody is going to be back as soon as they can. That’s all you can do is hope is everybody makes a speedy and good recovery.”
Moody has made an impression on his teammates and coaches with his professed fondness for contact that shows up on the field, even though he isn’t allowed to tackle his teammates.
Wilhoite - last season’s Thomas Herrion award winner given to the first-year player that makes the most of his opportunity – has made good progress in camp. While he was answering the media’s questions, Vernon Davis interrupted the session while walking by saying, “This dude’s come a long way. I don’t care what you say, I want him on my team.”
“It’s always good news that I’m going to get more time on the field, more opportunities to make myself better. But the cost it comes at and a teammate getting injured. That’s always bad news,” Whilhoite said.
“That’s always something you don’t want to have the team. Something you don’t want to hear - especially a player his caliber or a player of NaVorro’s caliber. Both those guys are elite, the best in the NFL in my eyes.”
Wilhoite only played 10 defensive snaps last year while being a fixture on special teams. Moody, a rookie, is playing just his second season at linebacker after transitioning from a roving safety position with Florida State before the 2012 season.
With Willis expected out until the start of the regular season and Bowman likely needing time to heal, both Wilhoite and Moody will get a lot of reps before the start of the regular season.