San Francisco 49ers: Really, Ray McDonald's Injury Isn't That Serious?

Sean GalushaCorrespondent IIOctober 12, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Ray McDonald #91 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts against the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens won 34-31. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Honestly, this is happening so often that anything short of being airlifted by helicopter to the emergency room is a good thing. It turns out that starting defensive end Ray McDonald "only has" a biceps tear and should be able to continue playing this season.

That's great, except he'll probably need a new arm by February. As we all know from watching Justin Smith last season, a player with a torn muscle can be as useful as a tweezer in Brian Wilson's locker. 

The injuries for the 49ers are piling up so high that you could stand on top of them and change out a few light bulbs.  Ian Williams is out for the season. Patrick Willis is still nursing a sore groin. Aldon Smith could be MIA for a couple of years, depending on what a judge decides.

But amazingly, there is a silver lining.  The 49ers' backups (particularly on defense) have shined over the last few weeks, holding the Rams and the Texans to a combined 14 points.  The secondary, which lost their viscous hard-hitting free safety Dashon Goldson to free agency in the offseason, has emerged as one of the best in the league. 

The only reason why Tramaine Brock isn't starting this Sunday is because Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are making receivers disappear every week. He nearly had three interceptions and two pick-sixes against the Texans, and receivers are actually holding him to stop him from catching the ball. It makes you wonder how Nnamdi Asomugha won the No. 3 cornerback position over Brock during training camp. 

Free tickets to audience screenings of Scandal? Ugh.

The 49ers are a team loaded with talent and depth, but their injuries and off-field issues will eventually become unsustainable if they continue, and for Harbaugh to describe a torn biceps injury  as "dodging a bullet" is asinine.  

If McDonald can't play effectively against the Cardinals on Sunday, the Niners need to seriously consider platooning him or opt for season-ending surgery. Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs are next on the depth chart. Are they as effective as McDonald? No. But they're healthy and pain free, and that's just as important as talent nowadays. 

Two of the 49ers top draft picks, Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial, will also be available after Week 6, so Harbaugh and Vic Fangio might want to  think about employing a rotation for the three-man defensive front. And considering the potential of Corey Lemonier and Michael Wilhoite's monster 13-tackle game against the Texans, a revolving door at linebacker may be even more effective at wearing down offensive lines over four quarters. 

San Francisco got some breathing room when the Colts swatted the Seahawks on Sunday, and with reinforcements close to being on the way, the 49ers need to avoid the same mistakes they made last year in order to keep pace in the NFC West. 

No one wants another injury to a key player, but ignoring it won't make it go away. McDonald's torn biceps isn't a "dodged bullet," it's something that could limit him and the team for the rest of the season.

The defense received an unsuspected lift when Glenn Dorsey took over as the starting nose tackle for Ian Williams. The Niners have to have faith that the same thing can happen again if McDonald is unable to play. 

Face the truth. That's the first step to solving the problem.