Last Friday, 49ers inside linebacker Jeff Ulbrich visited with neurologists to determine the severity of a concussion he sustained on October 4, against the St. Louis Rams.
And on Monday, the news from that meeting caused the 49ers to place Ulbrich on the team’s injured reserve list and sign veteran linebacker Matt Wilhelm.
“We really have a conservative approach to everything we do as it pertains to our players,” head coach Mike Singletary said on Monday. “We want to make sure that we take care of our players because taking care of the players, means we’re taking care of their families as well in the long run.”
Singletary added that Ulbrich will remain around the facility as a mentor for younger players in a similar fashion as cornerback Walt Harris, who has been around often after injuring his knee in the offseason.
“Jeff is the kind of guy that you want around. He’s good for our team,” Singletary stated. “He’s good for our linebackers. He’s good for our coaches. He’s like a coach on the field anyway. Next week he will be here and in the meetings.”
While the 49ers coaching staff might have picked up an unofficial member of their staff, the players inside the 49ers locker room felt a major loss.
“Losing him is like losing a brother. I mean, it is losing a brother to me,” linebacker Patrick Willis said with intent. “I looked up to Jeff and I still do. He’s helped me understand so many different things.”
Since Willis joined the 49ers as a first-round pick in 2007, he instantly had the support of Ulbrich.
“From day one when I stepped out here and I didn’t know anything, I asked Jeff a thousand questions,” Willis said of Ulbrich’s influence. “Not one time did he hold out on me and not answer the question for me.”
Willis was pleased to hear that Ulbrich will remain around the facility and on some road trips, but not having him in full pads in the locker room and on the sidelines will be a shocker.
“Losing him is going to be sad. He was like a warrior in the game to me, especially in the locker room,” Willis added.
The tough task of filling those shoes falls on Wilhelm, who has spent the last six seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Wilhelm was with the Philadelphia Eagles this past training camp, but was released prior to the start of the season.
What makes Wilhelm a likeable candidate is his familiarity with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s defense, a system he played in for four seasons in San Diego.
“The meat and potatoes of the defense I know pretty well,” Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm understands both inside linebacker positions, but will have to learn the terminology associated with the defense. Knowing that, Wilhelm wants to help the team in any way as soon as possible.
“Obviously, this is a backup role, because they have two great inside linebackers. But they need someone to come in on special teams and be one play away and learn this defense as fast as they can,” Wilhelm said.
More Monday News and Notes
-Singletary was asked if starting strong safety Michael Lewis could be placed on IR like Ulbrich because of a concussion, but the 49ers head coach said it was “unlikely.” He also stated that Lewis’ return has not yet been determined and that the team would continue to monitor his health.
- Last week, Singletary hinted a possible change on the offensive line. On Monday, he announced the changes.
“Right now, Chilo [Rachal] and [Adam] Snyder will alternate [at right guard], a lot like [Tony] Pashos and Snyder at the right tackle position. We want our best five on the field, and we feel like Snyder alternating with Chilo will be good for us to find out who is best at that position.”
-Singletary has been pleased with the progression he’s seen from rookie wideout Michael Crabtree in the short period of time he’s been with the team.
“Michael Crabtree’s progress is excellent. He’s working his tail off. He stays here. He’s with the coaches all the time and learning the playbook. They’re very pleased with what they’re seeing, and I’m pleased with what I’m seeing and the conversations that he and I have had. With the coaches, it’s been great. He can’t get enough of it. He wants to be out here. He wants to get better. He wants to play and make a contribution. So, that’s very exciting.”
-Quarterback Shaun Hill said he didn’t realize how big Crabtree actually was on the football field.
“He plays much bigger than he appears. When you see him, you think he’s on the short side. But when he’s out there playing, he’s a big target out there. He has very strong hands and attacks the ball out there. I think he’s going to be good for us.”
-Hill was also pleased with Crabtree’s work ethic.
“I’ve been very impressed with how much he’s learned since he’s been here. He came right in and was able to pick it up. If a question does arise, he’s not afraid to ask. I feel very comfortable that he’s going to know everything he’ll need to know for this game on Sunday.”
-Hill said the front seven of the Houston Texans defense has stood out to him the most through his film study.
“Good team. They’re playing well right now. They’re going to be a very good opponent for us. They have a very good front with a great pass rusher in Mario Williams. They just play good fundamental defense.”
-Hill will be aided this week significantly with the return of running back Frank Gore, who has missed the last two games with foot and ankle injuries. The 49ers star runner stayed in the Bay Area over the bye week to rehab his injuries and also help Crabtree get filled in.
“Over the bye week, he [Crabtree] looked very good. He was getting the plays. Now we’re fully-loaded as an offense and on Sunday we have to get going,” Gore said. “I feel like a kid right now, I can’t wait to get back out there with my team.”
-Gore said he wasn’t concerned about out-scoring the Texans’ high-powered offensive attack.
“For us, we just have be ourselves and go out there try to keep the chains moving and score points. If we do that we should have a great chance to win.”
Tags: Chilo Rachal, Frank Gore, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm, Michael Crabtree, Michael Lewis, Shaun Hill, Tony Pashos
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