Delayed returns as 49ers back in camp

Jim Flanigan has MRI exam and receives an epidural

The 49ers returned to training camp practice late Monday afternoon to a flurry of disappointing news. Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia won't play in Thursday's exhibition home opener against the Oakland Raiders, nor will he practice with the team this week. And Garcia's not the only player that the Niners had hoped to get back who won't be participating in daily practice drills for a while.

Coach Dennis Erickson said early Sunday evening that he expected cornerback/kick returner Jimmy Williams to be cleared for Monday's practice drills. Williams has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp began while he continued to rehab from December knee surgery.

But when the Niners returned to the field from a players' off day, Williams still was not in uniform. And Erickson said it still will be a while before he is.

"He's not going to go for another week," Erickson said. "We just wanted to wait (longer). It's precautionary."

Defensive tackle Jim Flanigan, a projected starter entering camp, also won't be going for a while due to problems with his calves and back. His condition now officially can be considered a setback, and the team is moving forward with Anthony Adams and Travis Kirschke now the top candidates to play opposite starting left tackle Bryant Young.

Flanigan had an MRI exam on his calves Monday "because that is what is bothering him," Erickson said. "So (doctors) wanted to check his calves because they think it's connected to his back. So he had one of those epidurals for his back because they think that's connected to it. So we'll know more tomorrow. They think those problems were involved because of his back and spine. So, at least they found that out. Maybe that's the answer to it."

The MRI exam revealed that the problem wasn't related to Flanigan's calves, which had been bothering him with pulls and cramps since training camp began.

The Niners also felt there might be a chance starting right cornerback Jason Webster could return to practice with the team, but Webster instead ran on the side Monday with physical development coordinator Jerry Attaway, like he has been doing much of camp. If Attaway liked what he saw, Erickson said, Webster could make his return to practice as soon as Tuesday.

But the earliest anybody will see Garcia - who now hasn't practiced with the team in a full week - back with the team is Saturday.

"We play early this week and then we start back on Saturday, so hopefully he'll start back on Saturday," Erickson said. "That's my goal, but I'm not the doctor. My plan right now (is) we're looking to try to get him ready to play New Orleans (on Aug. 23)."

When asked at what point Garcia's back condition becomes problematic, Erickson did not express overhwhelming concern.

"He has been around," Erickson said. "We'd like to have him play some againt New Orleans, that's the ideal situation. If that doesn't happen, he may have to wait to play against San Diego (on Aug. 29). He needs to play a couple of series in the preseason. I just want to get him to a point where he can play against New Orleans."

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