Smith's possible return tied to regaining strength

Smith's possible return tied to regaining strength
December 27, 2012, 11:30 am
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A bone spur attached to a piece of Justin Smith's triceps tendon detached in his left elbow. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SANTA CLARA -- Defensive tackle Justin Smith had a bone spur attached to a piece of his triceps tendon that became detached in his left elbow, the 49ers clarified Thursday morning.

[NEWS: Torn triceps for Smith]

Smith has been out of action since early in the second half of the 49ers' game Dec. 16 against the New England Patriots when he sustained an injury while battling through a double-team block. He was not active for the 49ers' 42-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. But the team believes there is still a chance he can return to action this season.

The four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was absent for the entirety of the Patriots’ 31-point, second-half explosion. On Sunday, the Seahawks scored 35 points on the 49ers’ defense without Smith on the field.

The Sacramento Bee accurately reported Thursday that Smith has a partially torn triceps. The partial tear is to the tendon, not the muscle.

The day after Smith's injury, asked Harbaugh if it was feared Smith sustained a long-term injury similar to Parys Haralson, who is out with a torn triceps, Harbaugh said, "No, it seems to be two different things."

Haralson's injury was a complete tear of the triceps tendon, which required season-ending surgery. Smith is likely to undergo offseason surgery to remove the floating bone spur. The playoff-bound 49ers conclude the regular season Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park. Smith would be able to return when he rebuilds the strength in his left arm.

When asked Wednesday about Smith’s status, Harbaugh said, he will “continue to rehab.”

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