VIEW: FULL INJURY REPORT
The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker, however, returned to practice on Wednesday in a limited fashion. Teammates were in full pads, Willis was in shells, meaning he wore light shoulder pads for players not participating in the full contact portions of practice.
Earlier in the day, Willis said he was optimistic about his chances of playing Sunday night against the Houston Texans.
“Only thing I can do is have the right mindset and listen to my trainers and my strength and conditioning coaches,” the star linebacker said. “So far, each day has been good. Now, it’s just making sure I stay on pace and don’t try to do too much, but make sure if I’m going to be out there that I can help my teammates win.”
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“Yeah, he’s playing,” the 49ers defensive tackle said when asked if Willis would start against the Texans. “So yeah, definitely.”
Willis sustained a groin injury in San Francisco’s home loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The tough linebacker said it was the first groin injury he experienced in his football career.
“I’ve endured a lot of pain in all the years I’ve played football,” Willis shared. “There are some things my body is able to absorb… this right here, it was a little different. It was something new. I just thank God the MRI showed it wasn’t something that was going to keep me out for the rest of the season.”
Willis will continue to take a day-by-day approach in his return to the field.
When Smith’s comments were relayed to Willis in the team’s hour-long media availability, the 49ers linebacker couldn’t help but laugh.
“One thing about being around here,” Willis began, “we’re always optimistic about our situations.”
So while Smith thinks it’s definite Willis plays, the 49ers linebacker can only keep the same “positive thinking” as his fellow defensive captain.
“Hopefully I will be able to be out there, but it’s still uncertain right now,” Willis said.
“My mindset is I want to be ready to be out there.”
Even without Willis in the lineup for Week 4 action, the 49ers are the No. 1 ranked overall defense in the NFC and No. 4 in the NFL. The unit has allowed 299.8 yards per game.
San Francisco enjoyed a dominant effort in the win over St. Louis. The Rams rushed for 18 yards on 19 carries (0.9 yards per carry).
The 49ers rush defense will be tested against a Houston team that ranks seventh in the NFL, averaging 134.3 yards per game.