SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Late in Monday morning’s 11-on-11 practice session, center Eric Heitmann hobbled off the field with an apparent injury to his left leg. A few plays later, outside linebacker Martail Burnett went down as trainers huddled around his right knee.
Just another day in training camp. But for the San Francisco 49ers, the injuries seem to keep mounting – and it’s possible Heitmann may miss the regular-season opener with a broken leg.
”This is football,” coach Mike Singletary said. “You can’t prepare for some of the things that happen, but as a coach, the best you can do is get all the information you can and make a decision based on that.”
The 49ers already have two players who are likely out for the season – linebackers Scott McKillop, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL and torn patellar tendon in his left knee, and Ahmad Brooks, who has a lacerated kidney – and it’s possible Heitmann could be out as long as two months.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported that Heitmann suffered a broken left fibula in practice. He was examined by team trainers on the sideline, then was carted off the field. Burnett also was taken off by cart.
Singletary confirmed Heitmann’s injury following the afternoon practice and said the center will be out 6-8 weeks.
Additionally, starting left tackle Joe Staley left practice because of neck spasms, and linebacker Travis LaBoy (mild concussion) and wide receiver Brandon Jones (hamstring) also sat out. Heitmann, considered the team’s best offensive lineman, had only recently returned to contact drills after sustaining a stinger.
”You realize this is just part of the game,” linebacker Takeo Spikes said, “but it’s still very tough. If it happens to you and you’ve put in so much hard work, all you can do is sit back and ask why. If you see other guys go down, you think, ‘Man, I don’t want to be that guy.’”
Injuries can sometimes be costly in more ways than one. Guard David Baas suffered a mild concussion early in camp, which allowed first-round draft pick Mike Iupati to step in and work with the first team at left guard. Now Iupati is the starter and Baas is competing with veteran Tony Wragge at center while Heitmann mends.
”It’s miserable, absolutely miserable,” Baas said of his time on the sideline. “But you’ve got to be a man. I want to win, just like everybody else, and I’m going to come out here and compete at whatever position. That’s why I’m trying to get better.”
The 49ers aren’t alone, of course. Denver Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil is out for the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle last week. The Dallas Cowboys will need help at tight end after John Phillips suffered a torn ACL in Sunday night’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Heitmann’s injury came on the same day that Singletary announced the 49ers will start two rookies on the offensive line: right tackle Anthony Dixon and left guard Mike Iupati. They’ll need the reps, and it’s likely the line will experience some growing pains with so many changes.
”We have to give them the reps they need to adjust and be ready,” Singletary said.