After a second-quarter hit on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III on Sunday, Aldon Smith ran to the sideline with the tip of his left middle finger bent at an awkward angle.
“It was pretty weird looking,” the 49ers outside linebacker said.
The digit was dislocated but wouldn’t be for long. Smith said he popped it back in place with his right hand and was back on the field two plays later. Dr. Aldon Smith, orthopedic surgeon?
“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “Life after football.”
The dislocation was one of the few things that slowed Smith, whose first start of the season came against Washington’s rookie left tackle, Morgan Moses. Smith finished with two sacks and made two other hits on Griffin, who was sacked five times. Last season, the 49ers sacked Griffin six times, two of them by Smith.
“He took some pretty good hits – I’ve seen the look on his face,” said Smith, who admitted he was surprised that Griffin got to his feet after all of them. “But he’s a tough guy. He’s a competitor.”
Smith had a bandage on the tip of his finger after the game but said it wasn’t an issue. In fact, one of the few silver linings for a player who was suspended for the first nine games is he doesn’t have the litany of sprains, bruises and aches his counterparts are dealing with in late November.
That will be particularly relevant this week as the 49ers get ready for a Thursday matchup against the rival Seattle Seahawks.
As forecast by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio last week, the 49ers used a rotation at outside linebacker against Washington. Smith and Ahmad Brooks started the game with rookie Aaron Lynch splitting time on the left side with Brooks during the second half.
Lynch was credited with one sack and had another taken away by a roughing-the-passer penalty in the third quarter. Brooks, who was benched last week after a sideline spat over playing time, finished with three tackles and recovered a fumble at the end of the game when defensive end Justin Smith sacked Griffin and knocked the ball free. Brooks dropped to the ground as soon as he secured the ball, allowing the offense to end the game with a kneel-down.
“Last week, I was selfish,” Brooks said. “This week, I was selfless.”
Smith got the lion’s share of the snaps among the team’s outside linebackers.
“I thought he looked really sharp,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Had a great game. (His) speed was there, his power. You can see him not just striking; he was moving people. He was getting the edge. He was explosive. Thought he did a fine job.”
Brooks’ benching last week allowed Smith to play 54 snaps against the Giants, more than what Fangio was planning for the linebacker’s first game back from suspension. But the additional snaps allowed Smith to regain his rhythm, something he said started to occur in the late third quarter against New York.
That continued against Washington, although Smith cautioned he doesn’t feel as if he’s fully back to normal.
“I’ve still got some room to grow,” he said. “But I’ll keep getting better every week. That’s the plan.”
Tight-end troubles – In the run-up to the game, Harbaugh likened Vernon Davis’ sluggish production this season to a stubborn jar of olives: Once one is dislodged, the rest will come out.
Davis finished with three catches for 21 yards Sunday, but it’s safe to say the olives are still jammed inside the jar.
The team’s top tight end had another drop on what would have been a big gain in the second half. Two of his receptions, meanwhile, came on third down but were caught short of the first-down marker.
Davis struggled with ankle and back injuries early in the season, but he said he’s been fully recovered since the team’s bye three weeks ago.
The 49ers began the game without another tight end, Vance McDonald, who is dealing with a hip injury, then lost his replacement, Derek Carrier, to a foot injury in the first quarter.
Carrier played some snaps in the second half, but the 49ers were not able to use as many two tight-end formations.
Et cetera – Linebacker Chris Borland, who had double-digit tackles in his last three games, finished with eight against Washington. Still, he led the 49ers in that category.
▪ Safety Eric Reid briefly left the game after aggravating the ankle injury he suffered two weeks ago in New Orleans. Reid returned and was walking without a limp after the game.
▪ Colin Kaepernick had gone more than a month without an interception before reserve cornerback Greg Ducre picked off a third-quarter pass. It was Kaepernick’s sixth interception of the season.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.