The big injury news heading into the playoffs for the San Francisco 49ers revolved around defensive lineman Justin Smith and his left triceps injury. Smith suffered a tear in the tendon, which attaches the triceps muscle to the elbow, on Dec. 16.
Many doubted whether or not he'd be able to play at all in the playoffs, but he suited up in the NFC Divisional Round, the NFC Championship Game, and he'll play again on Sunday in Super Bowl 47.
But how is the arm feeling?
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Smith suggests that his arm didn't get any worse while playing through the injury with a brace on his elbow. In fact, Smith said that it's "feeling better."
"I can do more stuff every week," said Smith, one of six 49ers given 'podium duty' today in front of the media. "I think it heals up, obviously, as more time goes by and it's feeling better."
The brace that Smith wears restricts movement to prevent a greater tear. Surgery is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when, as it has already been determined that Smith will need to take care of it at some point in the near future. He's stated that he will have surgery after the season.
If there is some kind of setback, it would definitely hurt the 49ers. Smith has emerged as one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL, and was considered in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year award last season.
Still, even with the injury, he played the majority of San Francisco's defensive snaps in both playoff games thus far, taking on multiple blockers at once and putting his high motor on display. If the injury is hampering his play, it's safe to say that it's hard to notice.
Ricky Jean-Francois is the primary backup at both defensive end positions, and is also the primary backup to nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. He's exactly what the 49ers want in a backup and they would be confident if they had to give him significant time in the event of a setback with Smith's arm.
Regardless, Smith's teammates want him out there in the Super Bowl. During the week's media frenzy, fellow d-line starter Ray McDonald said that the team wants to win the Super Bowl "for him." McDonald cited the fact that Smith has been in the league for over a decade and yet has only been in the playoffs a handful of times.
McDonald also said that the 49ers are drawing inspiration from Smith's injury, as noted by Niners Nation. He said that if Smith can be out there playing with a "halfway torn triceps," then the rest of the team can gut out any injuries they may have and get it done in the Super Bowl.