49ers fans woke up to a bit of panic this morning if the first thing they saw was this tweet from Chris Mortensen:
49ers LB Patrick Willis does have a slight fracture in right hand, as suspected. Team will proceed with caution. Ready for regular season.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 1, 2013
Matt Maiocco tweeted a picture yesterday of Willis walking off the field with a hand injury, which apparently occurred when Willis collided with fullback Bruce Miller during one-on-one pass blocking drills. Injuries have been commonplace in Santa Clara so far, with several of the 49ers’ wide receivers going down, Darius Fleming suffering another ACL tear and now, their star linebacker breaking his hand.
Obviously, the team will be extremely cautious with their best defensive player. He will sit out the rest of training camp and miss the entirety of preseason, but the team says he’ll be good to go come Week 1. Luckily, Willis is a seasoned veteran with a fully developed knowledge of Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme. Which is to say, he shouldn’t be too rusty without the practice.
This isn’t the first time Willis has suffered an injury to his right hand. The linebacker played with a large cast on his hand during his junior year at Ole Miss (2005) after breaking his middle finger. He broke the same hand in 2007 and didn’t miss a game (he also led the NFL in tackles that year). He also broke his right hand in 2010, which led to two surgeries but only missed one game. You may remember Willis and Takeo Spikes playing with clubbed hands near the end of that season.
With Willis out, look for Michael Wilhoite to take all of the snaps beside NaVorro Bowman. Apparently some of you didn’t pray at your 49ers health altars like I suggested the other day. Brace yourselves, because it’s only August 1st. There’s still an entire month of fake football before the real stuff begins.