Staley, Clements to miss several games
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Left tackle Joe Staley limped through the 49ers locker room with a bulky brace on his sprained right knee. Cornerback Nate Clements cradled his broken right shoulder blade in a sling.
Both players, injured during San Francisco's 18-14 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday, will miss at least a month and a half. The 49ers host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday then have a quick turnaround with a home game against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 12.
The 49ers said Staley will miss six weeks and Clements 6 to 8 weeks.
Staley has never missed a game during his three NFL seasons. Clements has sat out all of one game, missing last year's Dec. 7 game against the New York Jets with a thumb injury to snap his streak of 119 consecutive starts.
Coach Mike Singletary said Monday that Clements wouldn't be placed on the season-ending injured reserve list and Staley didn't consider his knee injury to be season-ending. Clements underwent a CT scan and Staley had an MRI exam to further determine the damage.
Losing these two is a big blow for the 49ers, who at 3-4 have lost three straight games but are still optimistic about winning the NFC West and earning the franchise's first playoff berth since 2002.
"Obviously we're going to miss Joe Staley," Singletary said. "In terms of how it's going to affect our offensive line, which in essence is how it's going to affect our offense, you find a way to win. You find a way to work around it. Obviously he will be missed. We think a lot of Joe Staley. I'm hoping he's back real quick because he helps us tremendously. At the same time I know our offense will continue to get better."
On June 4, Staley signed a six-year contract extension through 2017 worth more than $40 million, a deal that includes roughly $16 million in guaranteed money and other incentives based on his play and whether he stays healthy. Staley, a first-round pick in 2007 out of Central Michigan, was approached early in the offseason by the team about a long-term deal as the 49ers were eager to secure the anchor of their rebuilt offensive line.
Staley was hurt when the pile rolled on him Sunday.
"I've never had a knee injury in my life," Staley said. "I'm not really speculating [how long it will be]. ... I've never been injured in my life. I haven't missed a game since my freshman year in college, so it would be tough."
Veteran backup Barry Sims filled in for Staley on Sunday and will remain in the starting lineup during his absence.
"Thankfully we've got great depth and a lot of great experience," center Eric Heitmann said. "Barry is a tremendous left tackle and he's played a ton of snaps in his career and been very successful. It's great to have him in the lineup."
Clements is also a big-money guy on this roster. He received an eight-year, $80 million contract in March 2007.
Yet he lost his starting spot at right cornerback for Sunday's game to Tarell Brown, another player the 49ers think highly of after rewarding him last week with a three-year contract extension through the 2013 season.
That doesn't mean Clements believes his status has changed around here.
"I'm just going to continue to be Nate and work hard as I've done my whole career," Clements said. "Everything will take care of itself. As a corner, you have to have a short memory. You're going to have good days and bad days."
Singletary has said he will go with the best players who give the team a chance to win -- and if that means regularly shaking things up, so be it.
"This team right now is going through some changes," Singletary said. "You're seeing guys step up, young guys stepping up, and some other guys stepping back. It's going to continue to be that way. I believe in the best 11 guys on the field. Whoever that is, that's who's going to be out there."
Niners receiver Brandon Jones recovered relatively quickly from a similar such injury after getting hurt early in training camp. He was active by Week 4. But Tony Pashos was placed on injured reserve last week with a broken left shoulder blade.
Clements said he would put all his energy into the rehabilitation process to try to get back on the field as soon as possible.
Singletary would hope Clements could be ready by the playoffs if the 49ers make it.
"If we're in the playoffs, I want him to play," Singletary said. "He's earned the right to play."
In addition to Clements and Staley, defensive end Demetric Evans is nursing a sprained left shoulder that's expected to sideline him for three weeks.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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