The 49ers’ offensive line that has struggled to protect the quarterback and open holes for running backs could get a pivotal reinforcement in the next month.
Center Daniel Kilgore, who is coming back from a broken leg suffered last season, said Wednesday the plan is for him to resume practicing the week of Nov. 16, which follows the 49ers’ bye. Doing so would trigger the start of a three-week window during which the 49ers could move Kilgore, who currently is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, to the 53-man roster.
Kilgore has been running and pushing sleds on a side field in recent weeks while the rest of the team practices.
“We’re offensive linemen; we’ve got to push things,” he said. “The sled work is huge for my conditioning and getting ready for practice.”
Kilgore was a first-time starter when the 2014 season began and was playing well when he suffered a broken lower leg Oct. 19 against Denver. He had surgery to repair the break and needed a follow-up procedure before training camp.
This year’s starter at center, Marcus Martin, hasn’t been nearly as effective. Pro Football Focus ranks him last among the league’s centers. Overall, the 49ers offensive line comes in at No. 29, according to the scouting service. The 49ers have given up 28 sacks, third most in the league, and have rushed for the 18th most yards.
Gunner needed – The 49ers’ top special-teams coverage ace, safety L.J. McCray, suffered a meniscus tear Sunday against St. Louis and had arthroscopic surgery Tuesday.
You don’t ever replace a guy like that. He was really, really coming on.
Thomas McGaughey, 49ers special-teams coach, about L.J. McCray
McCray could come back later this season, but the team also may need his roster spot before then. That might prompt the 49ers to place McCray on injured reserve. It also forces the team to find another gunner on punt coverage.
“You don’t ever replace a guy like that,” special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey said of McCray. “He was really, really coming on.”
The 49ers also are suddenly light on safeties with McCray hurt and veteran Antoine Bethea (chest) on injured reserve. Eric Reid and rookie Jaquiski Tartt are the starters with Jimmie Ward in reserve.
Concussion watch – Tight end Garrett Celek and cornerback Kenneth Acker are in the league’s post-concussion protocol this week.
Acker was checked for a rib injury after a collision against the Rams. When he complained he wasn’t feeling well this week, team doctors suspected he may have suffered a concussion.
If Acker can’t play Sunday against Atlanta, Dontae Johnson would start at cornerback or possibly Keith Reaser. Reaser did not practice Wednesday because of a personal matter, but he wouldn’t have been able to participate had he been on hand because of an ankle injury. His availability against the Falcons will be determined by his ability to practice this week.
Et cetera – Starters Acker, Anquan Boldin (hamstring), NaVorro Bowman (shoulder) and Carlos Hyde (foot) did not practice Wednesday.
▪ Punter Bradley Pinion (calf) said he is “ready to roll” this week after injuring himself on his ninth punt Sunday. Pinion also kicks off for the 49ers, a role that could go to kicker Phil Dawson if Pinion is not 100 percent.