By Jerrell Richardson
The 49ers and Panthers are going to engage in a physical contest Sunday—one that’ll have its fair share of big hits—so it’s a good thing both sides are relatively healthy heading into their playoff showdown. It will be all hands on deck as the two teams battle for the right to move on to play for a Super Bowl berth. Each team has a pretty big name listed on this week’s injury report, but neither side is that concerned, albeit for completely different reasons.READ MORE: 'Positivity, Acceptance And Love': Lodi Announces Location Of City's First-Ever Pride Festival
San Francisco’s Carlos Rogers has still not returned to the practice field since injuring his hamstring in the regular season finale, while Carolina’s Steve Smith has been limited this week. San Francisco is confident in its backups though, and whoever is playing cornerback will have to deal with a slowed Steve Smith. Carolina is just hoping that he plays, as even a less-than-healthy Steve Smith is still a dangerous weapon in the Panthers passing game.
Carlos Rogers has been a fixture in the 49ers secondary since joining, but his absence is something San Francisco should be able to overcome. Not only did they play without him last week against a much more potent Packers passing attack, but Eric Wright AND Tarell Brown along with Mike Iupati are all over their injuries from a week ago that found them on this same report.
This gives San Francisco two very capable players who can fill in and deal with a gimpy Steve Smith and the rest of the Panthers receivers. Or the 49ers can stick with Perrish Cox, who played last week. The 49ers would of course want Carlos Rogers on the field, but they are not overly concerned if he is unable to play. Based on his sitting out of practice so far this week, it would appear as though the team is going to be without him. Based on the play of the secondary a week ago, along with the availability of Wright, the team is should be able to limit the Panthers ability to throw the ball with or without Carlos Rogers.
San Francisco 49ers
Did Not Participate In Practice
- Carlos Rogers (Cornerback): Hamstring
Limited In Practice
- Demarcus Dobbs (Defensive Tackle): Knee, Shoulder
Full Participation In PracticeREAD MORE: Fans Back In Stands At All American Speedway In Roseville
- Justin Smith (Defensive Tackle): Shoulder
- Dan Skuta (Linebacker): Foot
- Frank Gore (Running Back): Knee
- NaVorro Bowman (Linebacker): Wrist
- Michael Crabtree (Wide Receiver): Wrist
Steve Smith Will Play, Despite Limited Practice
While he will be a question mark up until kick off, barring any setbacks on the practice field, Steve Smith will be playing. Although limited, he has returned to practice this week and says that he feels 71 percent (started the week at 60 percent). Smith is a major key to his team’s chances of moving on in the playoffs, and this is not something that will be lost on the veteran wide out. It will take more than a bad knee to keep him out of this one. Keep in mind that Smith is more of a possession receiver than anything else, and while he might have some limitations stopping and cutting, he knows how to get open and his overall game should not see a noticeable decline based on his injury.
Panther starting defensive tackle Colin Cole was also limited in practice, dealing with a bad calf, but he too is expected to play. Unlike Smith though, if Cole has to miss the game, his team could make do without him. The Panthers have a defensive front 7 that is as good as any in football. As a unit, they can make up for Cole, whose role is more to clog up the middle than to make tackles or get to the quarterback. If out, limited in his snaps, or even if Cole plays the entire game, Carolina will still be the same (almost) impossible team to try and run against.
Limited In Practice
- Colin Cole (Defensive Tackle): Calf
- Steve Smith (Wide Receiver): Knee
Full Participation In Practice
- Ben Hartstock (Tight End): Knee
- Quintin Mikell (Safety): Thumb
- Jonathan Stewart (Running Back): Knee
For more news and updates about the NFL Playoffs, visit NFL Playoffs Central.MORE NEWS: 1 Injured In Highway 50 Crash That Caused Major Backups In Sacramento
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.