Injured 49ers’ LB Willis hopes to play Saturday

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Patrick Willis said it’s fair to say he’s made “significant progress” since suffering a hamstring strain on Dec. 4, but the San Francisco 49ers linebacker would not give a timetable for his return.

Willis said he is merely following the instructions of the team’s training staff.

“I’m just taking it day to day and being smart,” he said Tuesday. “Each day, my whole mindset is to get better with no setbacks. We’ve certainly done that. So we continue to work and when they pull the chains off, to come back just as strong as I left off if not better.”

Willis said he was hoping to play Saturday in Seattle. The 49ers obviously are wary of bringing him back too quickly and risking an even longer-term injury. He’s been doing cardiovascular work since the injury and has done light rehabilitating of the hamstring for the last two weeks.

However, Willis has not returned to running full speed and has yet to do any football-type drills, which are indications that his return is not imminent.

Also factoring into the equation is the play of Willis’ backup, Larry Grant. He led the 49ers in tackles the previous two weeks and had four pass break ups Monday against the Steelers. The challenge for Grant and the rest of the defense this week is former Cal running back Marshawn Lynch, who has 11 rushing touchdowns this year, five in the past three games.

Edwards challenged

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh sounded as if he was challenging Braylon Edwards after the wideout was held out of Monday’s game against the Steelers.

Although Edwards has been battling a nagging knee injury, Harbaugh said Edwards was inactive for the game because other receivers — namely Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn — had been practicing better and playing better in games.

Ginn, however, was knocked out of Monday’s game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Harbaugh said he didn’t know how long Ginn would be out, but he indicated the 49ers would not add another player at that position.

Instead, he said he thought Edwards would meet the challenge.

“We’ll see with Ted,” Harbaugh said. “But I think Braylon should be ready to go and we look for a good week of practice there.”

Staley is “good”

49ers’ left tackle Joe Staley was kicked in one of his shins in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against the Steelers but said he came out as a precaution only.

“I’m totally good,” he said.

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