SAN FRANCISCO — The 10-9 loss to Carolina was reminiscent of an earlier loss at Seattle, and for all the wrong reasons. Not only did the 49ers' offense get crushed by both opponents. San Francisco came out of both games with a litany of injuries.
This time, tight end Vernon Davis and rookie free safety Eric Reid both left the field with concussions. In addition, defensive lineman Ray McDonald injured his ankle, backup tight end Garrett Celek strained a hamstring and left guard Mike Iupati briefly left the game with a knee injury.
The scariest injury was Reid's. He lay flat on the turf for several minutes after colliding with 245-pound fullback Mike Tolbert in the third quarter, before walking off the field under his own power. But most damaging to the 49ers' game plan was Davis' concussion. He landed on his head when Carolina safety (and former Raider) Mike Mitchell threw him down on a second-quarter incompletion that the Panthers argued was a fumble. With Davis out, San Francisco was down to one tight end, rookie Vance McDonald.
"I'm sure it's a huge difference," center Jonathan Goodwin said of losing Davis. "Those guys don't have to worry about Vernon's speed in the passing game.<NO1> Vernon's a rare tight end that can stretch the field, so I'm sure it helps them to not have Vernon out there.<NO>"
There was no immediate indication of the extent of any of the medical issues.
"Hopefully none of the injuries are too bad," Goodwin said. "But we think we have a deep team, and if some guys can't play then some guys are gonna have to step up. It's part of this business."
ALDON IN A RUSH TO GET BACK
Sunday marked the return of outside linebacker and sack specialist Aldon Smith, who took a five-game leave of absence after wrecking his car into a tree while driving drunk. He was limited to 11 snaps against the Panthers, failing to dent the stat sheet though he did add some pressure on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
Asked whether he was OK with such a diminished workload, Smith answered: "Not really. I'm a competitor and I want to be on the field — but whatever works."