49ers' Patrick Willis to undergo season-ending surgery
The San Francisco 49ers will have to claw their way back into the playoff race without the hope of getting back one of their defensive mainstays.
Third-round linebacker Chris Borland, who got off to a tough start in training camp, has taken Willis' place the past three games. And he has been brilliant, racking up 50 tackles in those games and securing a key fumble late in the 49ers' massive victory Sunday at the New Orleans Saints.
Willis suffered the toe injury, which appeared to be a week-to-week thing, on Oct. 13 against the St. Louis Rams. It hasn't healed properly, and there were indications that it could linger. Now those reports appear to be true, as Willis has opted to correct the problem with an eye on returning next season fully healthy.
The 49ers, however, appear to be receiving other defensive reinforcements. Aldon Smith has returned from his nine-game suspension, and NaVorro Bowman who was badly injured in the NFC championship game in January is expected to return to practice this month and could hit the field by the end of November.
Still, losing Willis is a big blow for the 49ers, who continue to hang on by a thread in what has been a trying season.
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