The San Francisco 49ers fears were confirmed Monday morning after an MRI revealed that All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga tore the ACL in his right knee.
The news brings Hufanaga’s season — one in which he was tied for the third-most interceptions among safeties — to an abrupt halt and puts him on the road to recovery for the 2024 season.
“He’ll need a plan for training camp, but with the time and everything — if everything goes smoothly — he should be ready for Week 1,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.
While replacing Hufanaga, one of the elite safeties in the NFL, is a daunting task, it’s also an opportunity for rookie pick Ji’Ayir Brown, San Francisco’s top pick in the 2023 draft out of Penn State.
Because of SF’s depth in the secondary, Brown has been limited to just four games this season, but he was thrown into the fire in Sunday’s 27-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Hufanga went down.
He held his own, logging four tackles, three passes defensed — one of which came on fourth down inside the red zone that forced a turnover-on-downs — and an interception in the end zone that halted a Bucs scoring threat on their next-to-last offensive possession.