Do-everything 49ers fullback Bruce Miller is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs with a left shoulder blade injury sustained during Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay.
“It doesn’t look good. It looks like he has an injury to his scapula,” coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “He does so many things in the protection, in the run game, receiving out of the back field. He is a multitalented, multi-use player. Special teams contributor on two, three phases. It’s a loss.”
While the 49ers have “a pretty good idea” how long Miller will need to recover, Harbaugh declined to say except for “it’s something he’ll heal from.”
Former Stanford fullback Owen Marecic was expected at team headquarters to undergo a physical and conditioning test with the intent of re-signing him to help fill the void if all goes well during the visit. Marecic spent a stint with the team from Sept. 17 to Oct. 2.
“Owen Marecic’s hopefully en route and we’ll look at our options,” Harbaugh said. “The possibility of signing Owen Marecic, Anthony Dixon [also could play fullback]. Then we could get creative with some other guys on the team.”
After Sunday’s 33-14 victory, Miller had a tough time using the arm. He took a hard hit from Buccaneers safety Keith Tandy after a 10-yard catch midway through the fourth quarter.
Miller has been a key blocker for 1,000-yard rusher Frank Gore, and has 25 catches for 243 yards for the 49ers (10-4), who are riding a four-game winning streak as they prepare for next Monday night’s game against Atlanta in a rematch of the NFC championship game and the finale at Candlestick Park.
Third-year pro Miller’s job is among the most crucial in the running game. Miller worked to convert from college defensive end to NFL fullback.
Aside from the injuries and some losses Harbaugh would like back, this is almost the script Harbaugh had in mind for the December stretch run.
The reigning NFC champion Niners are surging with a much healthier roster at last — despite the tough loss of Miller. “We’re playing good ball,” Aldon Smith said. “We just keep getting better.”
Harbaugh didn’t have an update on wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s injured left hand, which he hurt during the fourth quarter but didn’t consider serious.
Harbaugh didn’t seem overly concerned.
“He seemed good after the ballgame and on the flight home,” he said.
And regarding Gore’s tender ankle, Harbaugh said he, too, was walking well afterward when the running back came to visit with the coach on the plane.
With kicker Phil Dawson extending his franchise-record streak of made field goals to 24, is it time to extend his contract beyond this year?
“Let me do that right now, ‘Phil, stay beyond this season,’” Harbaugh said with a chuckle. “I’ve been remiss in asking in asking him to do that. Let me officially ask him to stay beyond this season. Absolutely, I’m glad you brought it up, 24 straight field goals. He has been a top-notch guy, too, on the team from the day he got here. … Pay the man.”
Notes: The 49ers were thrilled to see former teammate and practice squad S Michael Thomas intercept a fourth-down pass by Tom Brady in the end zone with 2 seconds left Sunday to seal Miami’s 24-20 victory over the Patriots. Another one of Harbaugh’s former Stanford players, they traded text messages afterward. “It brought a smile to everybody’s face as we saw that,” Harbaugh said. “Everybody’s just happy for his success.”