Starting center Weston Richburg suffered a torn right patellar tendon early in the third quarter of the Niners' 48-46 win in New Orleans, coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday afternoon.
The injury ends a strong season for Richburg, who will miss the final three games and postseason and have to undergo surgery and the accompanying rehab. Richburg's injury was the most serious but the Niners also had a pair of shorter-term injuries to key players as cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Dee Ford are expected to miss some time with hamstring injuries.
Shanahan said Sherman would likely miss "a couple of weeks" with his right hamstring strain and Ford, who aggravated a previous right hamstring injury, would be expected to miss "at least" three weeks. Nickel cornerback K'Waun Williams is in concussion protocol and defensive tackle D.J. Jones is dealing with a sprained ankle.
"It's tough," Shanahan said. "It was a huge win and we enjoyed that a ton obviously but some mixed feelings today with some of these injuries, which is tough, especially losing Richburg for the year. The other guys got some serious ones, too, hopefully we can keep playing well so we can give them a chance to come back and help us if we can make our season longer than three games."
Emmanuel Moseley figures to step in for Sherman opposite Ahkello Witherspoon while the Niners have already been using Ford in limited snaps because of hamstring, knee and quadriceps injuries. Shanahan said he anticipates some roster movement coming, although any moves have yet to be decided.
Richburg's injury happened on third-and-1 when running back Tevin Coleman was stopped for a 3-yard loss. On the play, Richburg was driven back at the same time as guard Mike Person, with Person's left leg crashing into the back of Richburg's right leg.
Almost immediately, Richburg crumpled to the ground and grabbed for the injured leg. In the Superdome press box, the injury was announced as ankle and knee issues, and Richburg left the locker room on crutches as his teammates lamented losing one of their most important and underrated offensive players.
"Losing Weston is big," left tackle Joe Staley said. "He's the center position on our offensive line. He's one of the captains for our group and you don't want to see him go down at all."
After the game, Shanahan indicated the injuries were serious, although further testing was needed to determine the extent. That testing confirmed the Niners' fears on Monday and they will now be without Richburg for the rest of the season.
The patellar injury comes a year after Richburg played 12 games of the 2018 season with what turned out to be torn left quadriceps. Richburg believed that injury to be a knee sprain, so he played through it before doctors told him it was much worse at the end of the season.
Richburg had surgery in the offseason and didn't return to practice until just before the start of the season. In his absence, Ben Garland will step into the starting role. Garland, who filled in for Richburg in training camp and the preseason, earned positive reviews for how he played in Richburg's place against New Orleans.
"Ben came in and I think we have a deep group," Staley said. "I think we've seen that all year. Guys just step in and I think that just talks to the urgency that everybody has and the way that they understand the next man up and how special this team is."