Cornerback Carlos Rogers said he’s on track to return Sunday when the 49ers play the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, and fullback Will Tukuafu may not be far behind him.
Rogers, who strained his hamstring Dec. 29 and has missed the 49ers’ first two playoff games, was walking without a limp Tuesday and said he’s increased his sprinting to beyond 20 yards.
“I think I’m going (to play),” he said Tuesday. “You know, it depends on how practice goes. No setbacks and I’ll be out there.”
Rogers hasn’t practiced since suffering the injury in the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals. Tramaine Brock has taken over Rogers’ left cornerback spot while Tarell Brown has manned his former starting spot on the right side.
Perrish Cox filled in for Rogers in the nickel position against the Green Bay Packers and was in on 20 snaps in the nickel formation against Carolina on Sunday.
Rogers would have to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that he has fully recovered to get his starting job back. Fangio has said more than once that he’d rather have a healthy backup in the game than an injured starter.
Tukuafu also was walking without a limp after spraining his knee when he was dragged down from behind in the first quarter Sunday.
Tukuafu, who started at fullback, did not return. Tests this week showed the injury was not as severe as feared, but a determination on how much time he will miss won’t be made until later this week.
The 290-pound lead blocker stuck to coach Jim Harbaugh’s policy about not talking about injuries. “Hey, man, I’m here walking around,” he said, adding that his prognosis was “day-to-day.”
Tukuafu suffered a sprained MCL, which can keep a player out a few days or many months, depending on the severity. Left tackle Joe Staley, for instance, didn’t miss a start after spraining his MCL on Dec. 1 against the Rams. Offensive lineman Mike Iupati, on the other hand, missed four games after spraining his MCL on Nov. 17 in New Orleans.
Iupati said Tuesday his knee and a shoulder injury that bothered him in the first half of the season were better now as the 49ers prepare to play the Seahawks for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Iupati had perhaps his best game of the season against Carolina’s formidable defense, setting a block that helped quarterback Colin Kaepernick score on a 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and springing Frank Gore on a critical, 39-yard run in the fourth quarter when he took out Panthers inside linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The 49ers have played two of the best defenses in the league – Arizona’s and Carolina’s – in recent weeks, and Iupati said they needed a similar effort against the Seahawks’ defense that was first in the NFL in total defense in the regular season.
“It’s going to be a physical game,” Iupati said. “They have a great defense, so we’ve just got to go out there and play football.”
Et cetera – Gene Steratore, an eight-year veteran, will be the referee for Sunday’s game between the 49ers and Seahawks. Steratore has yet to handle a 49ers game this season. The Week 2 matchup in Seattle had 22 penalties, including four personal fouls.
• The 49ers signed three free agents to contracts for the 2014 season: receivers David Reed and DeMarco Sampson and defensive tackle Christian Tupou, who played at Grant High School before attending USC.
• Harbaugh’s wife, Sarah, took to the airwaves to say she does not condone her husband’s fashion style, which leans heavily on pleated khakis. “I threw them out and when he went to the combine, he found a Walmart,” she told 99.7 radio in San Francisco. “They were $8! $8!”