When Delanie Walker began practice Wednesday, he was wearing a black jersey that designates him as someone who is to avoid contact. Ten minutes into the session, however, the tight end took the jersey off.
"I felt like I didn't need it, so I took it off," Walker said today. "I didn't want to be labled as not being touched. For me to really know if I can play, I've got to be able to do some contact."
The gesture shows Walker's frame of mind as he returns from a broken jaw suffered on Dec. 24 in Seattle. If it's up to him, he will play in Sunday's championship game, and the 49ers offense certainly can use his help. But Walker said it's not up to him. Instead, his status is in the hands of coaches and team doctors, with whom he will consult after every practice this week.
Walker went through a limited practice Wednesday with a face shield and a different-style helmet than he usually wears, one that is a bit wider and has a bigger face mask to protect his jaw, which was broken in two places on the left side of his face. Walker said the jaw has healed to the point where it is just as strong as the right side.
"There's a low chance of me re-breaking it in the same place," Walker said. "But it's possible it can happen. This is football. And they warned me of that. But I feel confident in myself and the doctors feel confident in me to let me go out there with a helmet and do a little bit. So I'm confident I can do what I can."
Walker is able to eat a lot more than he could after the injured occurred and his jaw was wired shut. While his weight still hasn't returned to pre-injury levels, he's been able to stay in shape, and he said he's been busy running routes on his own and catching passes from the JUGGs machine.
Still, Walker was very much limited in Wednesday's session, and it remains to be seen whether he can practice enough to be a major component of Sunday's game. Walker was the team's leading receiver when the Giants and 49ers met in Novermber, a 27-20 49ers win.
"I've been on the JUGGs, making sure I get my hands back and I've been running routes on my own," he said. "They see that, and I think if I get out there, I can still be on the same page as Alex. ... If they leave it up to me, of course I'm going to play."
-- Matt Barrows