49ersí Justin Smith questionable for Sunday against Seahawks

12/21/12 in NFL   |   BrianMaddock   |   1429 respect

After San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith missed his third consecutive practice this week, there are concerns over whether Smith’s streak of 185 consecutive starts (3rd longest in the NFL) will end on Sunday.
However, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh upgraded Justin Smith to questionable (even though he missed the afternoon practice session) after he was initially listed as doubtful in the San Francisco 49ers’ official injury report on Friday. A questionable status compared to the doubtful tag puts Justin Smith in better prospects of starting Sunday’s NFC West showdown against the Seattle Seahawks.
While previously referring to Justin Smith with his nickname "The Cowboy" in a statement on Tuesday, Jim Harbaugh had been optimistic about Smith’s chances of being “out there roping and riding” against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. However, fourth-year pro Ricky Jean Francois has been taking snaps and might earn his fourth career start on Sunday after Justin Smith missed the entire week’s worth of practice.
The 33-year-old Justin Smith has missed only one game in his NFL career, his rookie season opener, due to a contract holdout after being drafted 4th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2001 NFL draft.
Justin Smith sustained an unspecified elbow injury early in the second quarter Sunday’s 41-34 win over the New England Patriots. Although Justin Smith returned a few plays later with the injured elbow taped, he failed to make a finish the game. Upon his exit, Justin Smith’s impact on the team’s defense was clearly obvious when the 31-3 leading San Francisco 49ers failed to crush a 28-point comeback by the New England Patriots, starting-off late in the third quarter.
Both, left tackle Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois playing in the reserve role came up with big plays (including a crucial fourth-quarter sack by Jean Francisco on New England Patriots quarterback Tom) that hampered the New England Patriots’ progress. Ricky Jean Francois also took 48 of the San Francisco 49ers’ 92 defensive snaps in the game.
But Ricky Jean Francois knows that the Seattle Seahawks will test him in every way when the 26-year-old replaces Justin Smith on the right side as the San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1), who are already sitting on a wild-card spot, try to win the NFC West by beating the Seahawks on Sunday.
“I get that every game. From the first time I started against Tampa Bay, to Washington to New York. Everybody knows that Justin Smith is one of the best defensive linemen,” said Ricky Jean Francois. “If you’re dealing with a guy who hasn’t played or started, they’re going to do their best to come after me.”
"So this week the preparation was a little bit different -- more film, more details on their offense. Usually I'm on the sideline,” continued Ricky Jean Francois. “(But) you can put me in and the ball will never drop. That's the biggest thing, just making sure the ball keeps rolling whether it's Ray out or Justin out."
Going on 33 tackles, Justin Smith’s already posted career highs with those stats this season.
The San Francisco 49ers only injury on the offensive side traced back to wide receiver Mario Manningham, who’s been sidelined over the past two weeks with shoulder issues. Although Mario Manningham was able to practice on limited basis throughout the week, he’s been listed as questionable against the Seattle Seahawks.
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