Tank Carradine on Thursday played in his first game since tearing his ACL at Florida State in 2012. He wasn’t exactly eased back into the fray.
The 49ers defensive lineman said he expected to play perhaps 20 snaps against the Ravens. When the final whistle blew, he had been on the field for three times that amount. And after 21 months spent standing on the sideline, his body felt the effects of a full day’s work in the trenches.
“I was a little gassed,” he admitted. “Just being out for a while and now back in it, I realize I have to get in a little better shape. I didn’t think I was going to play that much. I was actually shocked.”
With the 49ers’ starting defensive-line trio of Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey out with injuries, their backups not only had to play the equivalent of a full contest, they were tasked with stopping Baltimore’s formidable ground game.
The Ravens rushed for 237 yardsand averaged nearly five yards a carry. Afterward, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said his biggest concern from the loss was that his team got “pushed around” by Baltimore.
Still, it was a positive return for Carradine. He finished with eight tackles – third highest on the 49ers – one sack, one tackle behind the line of scrimmage and one hit on the quarterback.
More important, his knee injury, which lingered into the 2013 season and required an additional surgery in January, is behind him. Now his biggest obstacle is regaining his game-day stamina and learning the intricacies of the 49ers’ defense.
“Now I know the intensity I need to bring in my approach for the next one,” Carradine said.
Carradine wasn’t the only young 49ers lineman gasping at the end of the game.
Quinton Dial, who led all defenders with 10 tackles, needed an infusion of fluids. Meanwhile, defensive ends Demarcus Dobbs and Lawrence Okoye were hobbling with sprained ankles. Okoye’s injury, which occurred when Dial fell into the side of his left leg, appeared particularly bad, and it put into doubt his availability for the three joint practices scheduled with the Ravens beginning Saturday in Owings Mills, Md.
The 49ers already were thin overall entering Thursday’s game. Only 70 of their 90 players are healthy, and Harbaugh noted that three of those are punters or kickers and four are quarterbacks.
Harbaugh indicated that the team might have to add some healthy bodies to the roster, particularly the defensive line. The 49ers did not make any transactions Friday.
One short-term solution may be to use Will Tukuafu as a defensive lineman. He began his NFL career there before being moved to fullback last season. Tukuafu took four snaps on defense against the Ravens on Thursday.