The San Francisco 49ers can't afford another major injury, but the hits keep on coming.
Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reported Thursday that defensive tackle Justin Smith has a "bone spur attached to a piece of his triceps tendon that became detached in his left elbow," according to the team.
The Sacramento Bee reported earlier that Smith had suffered a partially torn left triceps, according to an anonymous source with knowledge of the injury, but 49ers clarified that the partial tear is to the tendon, not the muscle.
Smith was injured during a Week 15 win over the New England Patriots and hasn't practiced since. The Bee reported Smith is likely to undergo offseason surgery, but the 49ers hope he can play through the pain during the team's voyage through the NFC playoffs. Maiocco stated Smith's return hinges on the player gaining strength in the arm.
Losing Smith would be devastating for San Francisco's defense. He is the engine behind a pass rush that has propelled teammate Aldon Smith to 19.5 sacks on the year. The Smith-Smith combination has rocked offenses, but Justin's work has unfolded in the shadows, often freeing Aldon to heat-seek the passer.
We saw the 49ers struggle during Sunday night's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. With Justin off the field, Seattle ran Marshawn Lynch right at Aldon Smith, challenging him -- and winning. The Seahawks dominated at the point of attack all night.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.