UPDATE (10am) -- Patrick Willis took to social media to refute the report that he's considering a comeback.
Three of the four offseason retirements caught the 49ers by some degree of surprise.
The 49ers figured Justin Smith was probably at the end of the line when last season came to an end. Patrick Willis’ decision was a jolt, but understandable considering his physical condition. The 49ers were shocked when Chris Borland made his decision to walk away after one NFL season.
And the timing of Davis’ announcement – so late in the offseason – created equal parts surprise and frustration.
Davis always left the door open for his return. Smith, Willis and Borland announced their decisions as final.
Jason Cole of Bleacher Report said on a video posted Thursday morning that he spoke to a source who told him Willis is “considering a comeback.”
“Now, he’s not definitely going to do it,” Cole said. “He’s still dealing with a toe issue.”
A source close to Willis told CSNBayArea.com on Thursday, “I have not heard anything to that effect from Patrick.” The 49ers appear to know nothing about Willis having any second thoughts, either.
The 49ers’ situation at inside linebacker looks a lot better now than it did when Willis retired, citing chronic foot problems as the main reason to end his career after eight NFL seasons.
NaVorro Bowman is playing at a high level, and ranks second behind Indianapolis’ D’Qwell Jackson in the NFL with 88 tackles. The 49ers acquired Gerald Hodges last month from the Minnesota Vikings in a trade. Starter Michael Wilhoite is scheduled to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Shayne Skov serves as the team’s fourth inside linebacker.
Davis responded on Twitter to the report that Willis is considering a comeback: "If Pat comes back too that would be sickk."
It's another indication that Davis plans to attempt a return to professional football next season. But it might not be as simple as the 49ers immediately plugging him back in at right tackle.
Davis announced in June he was stepping away from the NFL “for a year or so” to allow his brain and body some time to heal. He has since hinted on social media that he plans to return next season.
The 49ers still hold Davis’ contract rights. He had five years remaining on his contract at the time he went on the reserve/retired list. It is not known how close Davis is to being in football shape after a year away from the sport. Team sources said Davis would have to “mend fences” within the organization. That does not figure to be much of an obstacle if he can help the team.
Then, the 49ers would have to decide how to proceed. If the 49ers determine they no longer want him, Davis would figure to have trade value. And if the 49ers want to retain his services, the team would have to decide where to place him.
The 49ers like what they’ve seen from rookie Trent Brown, whom they determined had developed to the point that he had earned limited playing time Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Brown played nine snaps at right tackle, while veteran Erik Pears moved inside to right guard. If Davis is back on the team, he would have to earn his old job in a competition with Brown. Or the 49ers could decide to keep Brown at right tackle and move Davis to guard.
The 49ers expect to hear from Davis at some point about his plans for the future. General manager Trent Baalke and Davis have remained in sporadic contact, but there have been no commitments either way, a source said.