San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis declined his Pro Bowl invitation earlier this week, and recent hand surgery could be the reason why. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Willis underwent a procedure on his left thumb following the Niners' NFC Championship loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Willis, who has been voted into the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons, recently celebrated his 29th birthday, and photos from the party posted on his WhoSay account show him wearing a cast on his left hand. It's not clear if the injury was sustained during the conference championship or not, but he did not appear on the official injury report heading into that game.
The five-time All Pro has had a history of hand trouble. He fractured his right hand last August, the fourth time he's done so since his junior year at Ole Miss. That injury didn't cost him any playing time, though he did miss two games this season with a groin issue.
Despite matching the Kansas City Chiefs for the most Pro Bowl selections this season, San Francisco will only have one representative in Hawaii on Sunday. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks is the only one of eight players that did not decline his invitation. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman (ACL tear) and guard Mike Iupati (fractured ankle) both suffered severe injuries against Seattle. Left tackle Joe Staley dislocated his thumb during that game. Tight end Vernon Davis, running back Frank Gore and defensive tackle Justin Smith turned down their offers.