SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers have yet to announce the diagnosis for tight end Delanie Walker’s jaw injury. He has not practiced all week and head coach Jim Harbaugh said that a decision on Walker’s status for the playoffs is likely to come at earliest Monday.
“Delanie did so much that nobody will ever know,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Thursday. “We’ll miss him and look forward to having him back.”
Harbaugh has preached the “next man up” approach for the team and that would be Justin Peelle. Peelle signed with the 49ers two days after the season opener and will take over for Walker in Sunday’s game.
“I worked Justin out coming out of Oregon, might have been 10, 11 years ago,” Roman said. “I really liked him coming out of college.”
The 49ers are fortunate to have a 10-year veteran on their team to replace Walker. The only other tight end on the team is on the practice squad — rookie Konrad Reuland. Reuland has been getting reps with the offense this week without his practice squad jersey.
It is likely that the 49ers will stick with Peelle and starter Vernon Davis as the two tight ends this Sunday before looking into Walker’s status for the playoffs.
Peelle’s best season was in 2007 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He had 29 receptions and two touchdowns. He won’t be looked on as a pass-catcher this Sunday rather his blocking will be his best asset as the backup.
“He’s got a lot of experience deep into the season,” Roman added. “He is a very heady player. Very smart player. Very cagey player. Very good line of scrimmage player. Pretty decent hands.”
Peelle is a serviceable backup and could fill in fine for the team. But with the release of wide receiver Braylon Edwards, the 49ers are hoping that Walker will be able to return for the playoffs to help the offense.