49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

November 1, 2009
Shoulder fractures come in threes for Niners

Nate Clements became the third 49er this season to suffer a broken scapula. The 49ers cornerback punt returner left the game before halftime and did not return. It seemed to be a case of adding injury to insult. Though Clements was perfectly healthy at kickoff, Tarell Brown got the starting nod at cornerback. In fact, the first time the 49ers went to their nickel package, Dre Bly entered the game, meaning that on Sunday at least Clements was the No. 4 cornerback. Not many No. 4 cornerbacks have $80 million salaries.

Clements, of course, mostly was used as a punt returner. The 49ers said they didn't know how exactly Clements fractured his shoulder, but the safe money is that it happened during a return. For one thing, he played only a handful of snaps on defense. For another, he seemed to absorb and deliver a lot of big hits on his returns.

So what to do with Clements? Brandon Jones and Tony Pashos also broke their scapulas this season. Jones' injury took six weeks to heal while Pashos', who broke his last week, was placed on injured reserve. If Clements' injury heals as quickly as Jones', he might be available by Week 14 or 15, putting him on the field before a potential playoff run. And, yes, even though the 49ers have dropped three straight, they're still in the middle of the race in the blah NFC West.

As expected, Mike Singletary said the reason why Brown, not Clements, started was 'basic matchups. We felt that the matchups were good the way we had them," he said. Asked if Clements' demotion was permanent or a one-week thing, Singletary said "one-week thing." Of course, it's probably more like a six-week thing given the diagnosis.

Joe Staley suffered a knee sprain when someone rolled up on the back of his knee on the first snap of the game. Staley will have an MRI Monday. He was walking around -- albeit stiffly -- in the locker room after the game. Barry Sims filled in and played well ...

-- Matt Barrows

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MATTHEW 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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