September 25 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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First it was linebacker Jeff Ulbrich who hurt his knee as it collided with an opponentís helmet in pre-season, flipping him over, head over heals. Ulbrich returned to the lineup this past week, and saw more playing time than he expected as Jamie Winborn, who took his place in the starting line up went down with injury.
Winborn was leading the team in tackles before his injury, and it was believed that he supplanted Ulbrich in the starting lineup. With Ulbrich returning to the lineup, the 49ers believed that they would have one of the most potent tandems at linebacker in the league, and then Winborn went down - and while the 49ers are still waiting to get analysis of an arthroscopic procedure, Winborn is expected to be out for 5-8 weeks.
The linebacker position suffered more than just the loss of Winborn though. Julian Peterson who is having a great season so far, injured his knees and hip during the game. Peterson is on the verge of becoming the playmaker the 49ers believed he would be, when they drafted him in the first round. The 49ers got good news from his MRI on Tuesday. Peterson is expected to play on against the Rams, having a MCL sprain and no significant damage to his hip.
The 49ers may be forced to replace two linebackers for the Rams game (although it now appears Peterson will play). If thatís the case, the team will either shift Derek Smith to Petersonís spot, and have Jeff Ulbrich move into Winbornís spot and Saleem Rasheed would take Smithís spot. Alternatively the team could move Rasheed into Petersonís spot and Ulbrich into Winbornís spot. At this point, the 49ers have to be happy that they kept Frank Strong on their roster. The team may opt to add another linebacker sometime in these two weeks, as they are now quite shallow at the position. If Peterson plays, as expected, it will simply be a matter of substituting Ulbrich back into his original starting position.