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September 24, 2012
Injuries to Willis, Sopoaga not severe


BOARDMAN, OHIO - Jim Harbaugh's phrase of choice when it comes to good news on injuries is, "We dodged a bullet." It looks as if he and the 49ers evaded two more in Sunday's loss to the Vikings. Defensive starters Patrick Willis and Isaac Sopoaga had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter, but X-rays on both were negative.

"Turned out good for both of those guys," Harbaugh said.

Willis appeared to suffer a sprained ankle in a scrum for a loose football at the end of Sunday's game. Sopoaga's lower left leg, meanwhile, was bent at an awkward angle on a run play. Sopoaga, a nose tackle, played only a few snaps in the 49ers first two games against pass-heavy Green Bay and Detroit. But he and the 49ers base defense were used more heavily against the Vikings and he likely will be needed against the Jets on Sunday.

If Sopoaga can't play, Ricky Jean Francois would step in at nose tackle. Willis' backup at inside linebacker is Larry Grant, who started three games last season after Willis went down with a hamstring strain.

Both Willis and Sopoaga were seen moving without limps after the game, and Willis also was walking normally on Monday. Neither, however, was part of group that spent an hour and a half at Akron Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley Monday afternoon.

A number of players toured the hospital's special care nursery, including Alex Smith, Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and LaMichael James. One of the more captivating sights was 331-pound guard Mike Iupati rocking 8.1-pound Kylie Rowe. All visitors had to wash their hands before picking up one of the 18 newborns in the nursery. Iupati's hands barely fit in the sink.

Hall of fame running back Jim Brown, an acquaintance of owner John York's, ate lunch with 49ers coaches and players Monday at the team's hotel. Anthony Davis, Gore and Harbaugh were among those who chatted with the former Cleveland Brown. Harbaugh, a lover of football history, said he enjoyed talking to Brown, 76, about the game.

"I think he comes at it with a very unique perspective," Harbaugh said. "He's seen a lot as it relates to football, as it relates to life. Those are things that he's most interested in passing on to younger players, younger coaches."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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