Ahmad Brooks went from postgame hero to postgame mystery.
The 49ers’ outside linebacker, whose overtime sack and forced fumble led to the game-winning field goal the previous week against the Saints, didn’t play in the second half against the Giants. Instead, he sat glumly on the team’s bench with a black stocking cap on his head in place of his helmet. Various coaches and teammates went over to talk with him during the game.
Afterward, Brooks, 30, only would say that he wasn’t injured.
“I’m good, man,” he said. “I’m not taking any questions today. Maybe later this week. Not today.”
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Coach Jim Harbaugh was just as vague, first saying, “we’re working through something” and then snappily saying that he’d already answered the question when pressed for more details.
At the end of his postgame news conference, Harbaugh said, “We need Ahmad Brooks to win a championship. I feel that wholeheartedly, and have felt that way.”
Brooks has started every game at outside linebacker since the 2011 season, including Sunday’s contest against the Giants. He played in the first two series, but then was on the sideline as rookie Aaron Lynch and Aldon Smith took most of the snaps.
Smith, who played 12 snaps in his first game back from a stint in alcohol rehab last year, played far more extensively Sunday and finished with two quarterback hits. Seldom used Corey Lemonier entered the game in relief.
Earlier this month, Fox Sports reported that the 49ers had tried to deal Brooks to the Browns before the Oct.28 trade deadline, which the 49ers denied. However, the report made sense considering Lynch’s progress and the fact that Brooks will count more than $9 million against the team’s salary cap in coming years.
The 49ers sacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning twice Sunday and harassed him into a 22 for 45 performance, including five interceptions. One of the sacks came from Lynch, who added two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and two quarterback hits.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happened there,” Lynch said when asked about Brooks. “I don’t know what the deal was. I love the guy. He’s like a big brother to me. So as far as what happened off the field or on the field, I don’t know what happened. He never talked about that.”
Bowman to practice – The 49ers plan to allow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman to start practicing with the team Tuesday, triggering a 21-day window in which the team could move him from the physically-unable-to-perform list to the active roster. Tuesday is the final day to make that move.
A source, however, cautioned that Bowman will not be going full speed, at least during his initial practices, and there is still a good chance that he doesn’t play this season. He had surgery to repair his left ACL and MCL in February. A recent MRI on the knee showed that Bowman is on track with his recovery.
Patrick Willis began the season at Bowman’s “Mike” linebacker position. Willis’ season ended last week because of a toe injury, however, and rookie Chris Borland has taken over the role. Both Borland and fellow inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite have filled in well for their celebrated teammates, and each had an interception (Borland had two) in Sunday’s win over the Giants.
Allowing a player to practice in the 21-day window does not necessarily mean a team will bring him to the active roster. Last year, for instance, running back Marcus Lattimore took part in some late-season sessions even though there was no plan to activate him.
This year, rookies like defensive end Kaleb Ramsey and fullback Trey Millard recently joined practice but are not on the active roster. Fellow rookies like guard Brandon Thomas, cornerback Keith Reaser and veteran tight end Garrett Celek are likely to start practicing Tuesday as well.
Et cetera – Frank Gore led all rushers with 95 yards on 19 carries. He also moved to 22nd on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 10,615 yards. He needs 29 yards to move past former 49er Ricky Watters into 21st place.
▪ With Ian Williams (leg fracture) out Sunday, Quinton Dial made his first career start at nose tackle. Dial finished with four tackles.
▪ How rough was Manning’s outing? Punter Andy Lee, who threw an incompletion after a botched field goal, finished with a better passer rating (39.6) than the Giants quarterback (36.6).
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.