49ers notes: X-rays negative on Willis, Sopoaga

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012 - 7:55 am

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Jim Harbaugh's phrase of choice when it comes to good news on injuries is, "We dodged a bullet."

It appears 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 the 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 will replace him.

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 moved without limps after the game, and Willis also was walking normally on Monday. Neither, however, was part of a group that spent an hour and a half at Akron (Ohio) Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley on 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.

Jim meets Jim – Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, an acquaintance of 49ers owner John York, ate lunch with San Francisco 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."

Palmer to Indy – After the 49ers arrived in Ohio, one of their players immediately headed for Indiana.

The Colts on Monday claimed Nathan Palmer, an undrafted wide receiver out of Northern Illinois, off the 49ers' practice squad and placed him on their 53-man roster.

Palmer's main role was to give the first-string defense a sense of the opposition's wide receivers each week.

The Colts will ask Palmer, who is from Indiana, to fulfill a more immediate role after wide receiver Austin Collie (Oak Ridge High School) went down with a knee injury Sunday.

The 49ers wouldn't say who would replace Palmer on the practice squad. But former Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette tweeted, "I am the newest member of the 49ers."

Lockette, who went undrafted out of Fort Valley State in 2011, spent most of last season on the Seattle practice squad. He was activated for the last two games and had a 44-yard catch in a loss to the 49ers.

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