SANTA CLARA -- From the day he arrived as 49ers defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh stressed to his player that he wanted them to play with extreme violence.
And while the players on the 49ers defense has doled out a few shots along the way, it seems they have absorbed even more. In back-to-back weeks, starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt were lost for the remainder of the season with sustaining broken forearms.
“I still think they’re freak accidents,” Saleh said. “We teach head-out-of-the-game, leverage side, shoulder tackling. If you watch real closely what happened to Tartt, he was coming in for that tackle and he had a shin to a forearm. I’m guessing the impact is what caused the break.”
Saleh said he could not determine how Ward sustained his injury while making a tackle in the game against Philadelphia.
“I couldn’t exactly see how it broke in the pile, but anytime you break something, especially in this league, I think it’s kind of a freak accident, in my opinion," Saleh said. "By the way you get rolled up on, these players are so strong. To break something, something goofy has to happen.”
There seems to be no common thread to the injuries. There have been broken bones, and torn ligaments and tendons that have accounted for 17 players currently on season-ending injured reserve entering the 49ers' game Sunday against the New York Giants.
“We've got to get through this week, and we'll have our bye week after that,” 49ers coach Kyle Sanahan said. “I know our guys have been playing real hard. We've been playing some long games and battling and some physical games, and injuries happen. I've never been a part of a team where it's been like this, but teams do have to deal with this type of stuff all the time, especially this time of the year.”
One of the 49ers’ most devastating injuries occurred before any games. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was lost for the season when the pectoral tendon tore while he was trying to rip the ball out during training camp.
“(That’s) something that is just fundamental teaching,” Saleh said. “So they’re freak accidents and you wish they don’t happen, but it did.”