The San Francisco 49ers achieved a notable victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but the game was overshadowed by concerns about the health of All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga.
Hufanga had to leave the game due to a non-contact injury sustained while planting his right leg in pass coverage.
Post-game, he was spotted in the 49ers’ locker room using crutches and wearing a knee brace. Head coach Kyle Shanahan informed reporters that Hufanga “most likely” sustained a season-ending torn ACL. Further testing will be conducted to confirm the severity of his injury, which, if proven, will be a significant setback for the San Francisco secondary.
Last year, Hufanga, who is 23 years old, secured a full-time starting position with the 49ers in his second NFL season. Across 17 games, he accumulated four interceptions, two forced fumbles, nine passes defended, two sacks, and 66 tackles. His stellar performance earned him Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors. An agile and versatile defender, his absence will undoubtedly be felt in the San Francisco secondary.
Rookie backup Ji’Ayir Brown stepped into Hufanga’s position and had an immediate impact by intercepting Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield and breaking up a crucial fourth-down pass in the end zone to secure the win in the fourth quarter.
His exceptional performance did not go unnoticed by head coach Kyle Shanahan, who remarked, “I thought he did a hell of a job. To lose a player like Huf in a game and for him to come in and step it up big and make two huge plays.”
With critical games against the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles on the horizon, Brown is poised to step into a crucial starting role for the 49ers.