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SANTA CLARA –- Linebacker Patrick Willis, out since Oct. 13 with a toe injury, is moving into the doubtful category for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s questionable,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said early in the day on Thursday. “As the week rolls on, if he doesn’t start practicing at some point then it starts moving to doubtful.”
After Fangio made that comment, Willis did not practice Thursday afternoon. And that appears to be a strong indication that he will not be available for Sunday’s game. Moreover, the Superdome has the same kind of artificial surface on which Willis sustained his injury against the St. Louis Rams.
Last week, Willis took part in individual drills before practices. This week, he has not even joined his teammates for warmups.
“I don’t think he suffered a setback,” Fangio said. “It just hadn’t gotten much better.”
Rookie Chris Borland, coming off an 18-tackle performance in a loss to the Rams on Sunday, is in line to get his third consecutive start in place of Willis.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock is taking part in limited practice this week. He sat out Sunday’s game after returning to action Oct. 19 to face the Denver Broncos. Brock had been out of action with “turf toe” that he sustained in a Week 1 victory against the Dallas Cowboys.
“Had a little minor setback last week but just wasn’t ready and gave it one more week,” Fangio said. “And hopefully this week, we’ll get him in there in the mix and not have to play full time.”
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Outside linebacker Dan Skuta remains out of practice with a left ankle injury. If Skuta is unable to play, the 49ers will turn to rookie Aaron Lynch to play all downs. Lynch has been entering primarily in pass-rush situations.
Also, nose tackle Glenn Dorsey could be activated off injured reserve/designated for return. Dorsey underwent surgery in August to repair a torn biceps. The 49ers have a roster opening that could be used to activate Dorsey.
“To me, that’s truly 50-50 right now,” Fangio said.
Reserve defensive lineman Quinton Dial was added to the injury report after being poked in the eye during practice. Justin Smith returned to practice after taking his usual Wednesday off from practice.
Did not participate
LB Dan Skuta (ankle)
LB Patrick Willis (toe)
CB Tramaine Brock (toe)
DT Quinton Dial (eye)
RB Frank Gore (hip)
WR Brandon Lloyd (hamstring)
DT Ian Williams (shin)
DE Justin Smith (not injury related)
Did not participate
LB David Hawthorne (hand)
WR Robert Meachem (ankle)
RB Khiry Robinson (forearm)
T Zach Strief (chest)
RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder)
C Jonathan Goodwin (knee, ankle)
RB Mark Ingram (shoulder)
WR Kenny Stills (thigh)
TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder)