Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Joe Staley Hopes to Play Thursday


Via the official 49ers website:

As he spoke to reporters at his locker on Tuesday afternoon, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley was buttoning up his Jim Harbaugh-issued, blue-collared shirt. It’s unknown if Staley will be fit for work by Thursday night’s marquee matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, but he’s chomping at the bit to return to the field.

Staley was knocked out of Sunday’s game when he was blindsided by a Giants defender on an interception return in the third quarter. After a visit with a neurologist on Monday that went “well,” Staley said the team’s medical staff will evaluate his situation heading into game time.
 
“If it was up to me, I’d have played yesterday,” Staley said.
 
 Concussions and player safety have become a hot topic for the NFL, but Staley said he remembers everything from Sunday, saying the concussion wasn’t “as serious.” Staley was a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice and had plans to increase his workload on Wednesday, and perhaps even take contact.

“We’re going through the process right now,” Staley said. “It’s really out of my hands. It’s up to doctors and the training staff to come to the decision.”

Staley has been a key force on an offensive line that has paved the way for the top-ranked 49ers rushing attack, which averages 176.8 yards per game and 6.0 per carry. But the strengths of both teams will be put on display Thursday, as Seattle enters with the NFL’s No. 2 rush defense, giving up just 70 yards per game.

On the heels of the 26-3 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champions, Staley is eager for a shot to get back on the field.

“For this team right now, it couldn’t come soon enough,” Staley said. “We have a bad taste in our mouth after our last game on Sunday. We’re really excited to play.”

The Seahawks have also proved to be disruptive with their pass-rush, as Staley cited Seattle’s eight-sack performance against Green Bay in Week 3. Chris Clemons leads the team with 5.5 sacks on the year, while rookie Bruce Irvin has added 4.5 sacks and another explosive dimension to the defensive front.

“They have a real speedy front,” Staley said. “They can get after the quarterback. … We’re very familiar with these guys and up front they have Bruce Irvin, who’s a rookie, who’s doing a real good job and not playing like a rookie at all. Looking forward to having them at our place.”

During his Tuesday press conference with reporters, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio revealed that the 49ers “thoroughly” evaluated Irvin before the 2012 NFL Draft. Ultimately, the West Virginia product was picked by Seattle with the No. 15 overall selection.

Fangio said Irvin poses a lot of problems to opposing offenses.

“Well, speed, number one,” Fangio said. “He’s extremely fast. And he’s very athletic. I think those are the things, and he’s got a good feel for pass-rush. So, his speed, athleticism and pass rush ability.”

If Staley isn’t cleared to play on Thursday, he’s confident in his teammates behind him. Once Staley left the game on Sunday,
 
Alex Boone moved from his right guard position to left tackle, as 11-year veteran Leonard Davis filled in at right guard.

Boone takes regular reps at left tackle during practice throughout the week and has NFL and college experience at the position. In fact, Boone served as Staley’s replacement when he went down in Week 14 of last year with a concussion in Arizona.

“Regardless of what happens, whoever comes in if I can’t go will do a great job,” Staley said. “Boone has reps as a left tackle and has played very well there. He played very well when I had a concussion last year against Arizona, thought he did a good job going in for me this last game. Next man in and we’ll see what happens.”

Likewise, 49ers rushing king Frank Gore said the 49ers are fortunate to have a player of Davis’ caliber and experience if needed.

“Leonard, he can step in,” Gore said. “He’s been playing the game for a while, made Pro Bowls, so he can step in. He knows what to do.”

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