Only one game into the season and confronted next by the NFC champion Washington Redskins, the San Francisco 49ers are scrambling for help.
And, it seems, so are the Redskins -- who waived rookie running back Jimmy Smith last night and picked up Rick Kane, an eight-year pro running back cut by the Detroit Lions a week ago.
A 101-yard kickoff runback in the preseason opener helped Smith make the team, but he used questionable judgment and got poor results returning kickoffs in the regular-season opener Sunday against Miami.
Kane, drafted by the Lions out of San Jose State in 1977, has played in 97 NFL games, 14 as a starter, and gained 1,399 yards on 381 carries, with 12 touchdowns.
Bill Walsh, the 49ers' president and head coach, meanwhile looked weary and worried yesterday as he assessed the damage to his defense from the 30-27 victory over the Lions.
Defensive end Jeff Stover, starting in place of holdout Fred Dean, suffered torn ligaments in his right knee. He had surgery Monday and probably will miss the rest of the year. Lawrence Pillers will replace him in the 3-4 alignment.
Cornerback Eric Wright will be out three to five weeks with a strained left knee. He did not require surgery. Mario Clark will take his place in the lineup and play left cornerback.
Cornerback Ronnie Lott has a sprained ankle, but is expected to play against Washington, "although not 100 percent," according to Walsh. Lott will move to right cornerback.
To fill Stover's place on the roster, Walsh activated offensive lineman John Macaulay, a first-year free agent from Stanford released by the 49ers before the opener. Then Walsh came up with a defensive lineman of six years' NFL experience, Greg Boyd, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers last month. To make room, San Francisco waived third-string quarterback Bryan Clark, son of Lions Coach Monte Clark.
Walsh said the need for defensive help "almost forced us to go with two quarterbacks (Joe Montana and Matt Cavanaugh). It's quite possible and quite likely that Bryan could return. He's a bright young man who has worked extremely hard and, I believe, has a career ahead of him in the NFL, hopefully with the 49ers."
Certainly, the 49ers will be at less than full strength against the Redskins on Monday night in Candlestick Park and will be forced to play a "more conservative" defense because of the injuries, Walsh said.
For their part, Redskins officials have been looking around the league for a tight end to take the place of Mike Williams, who incurred a hairline fracture in his neck during a special teams play against Miami and yesterday was placed on injured reserve. Coupled with the earlier injury to Clint Didier, this leaves the Redskins with one reserve tight end, rookie Anthony Jones.
"Obviously we are going to have to replace Mike (Williams)," said Charlie Casserly, Redskins' assistant general manager. "We hope to have a decision on that (Wednesday)."
The Redskins reported that defensive tackle Darryl Grant, whose right knee was sprained in the last preseason game against New Orleans, and all-pro left guard Russ Grimm, who aggravated an injured calf muscle Sunday, almost certainly will play against the 49ers.
The last time these teams met was in last season's NFC championship game. After that 24-21 Washington victory, Walsh complained that poor officiating had made the winning difference. But Redskins officials said they could not worry that the 49ers might use those memories to prepare for Monday night's game.
"I think we've got to be more concerned about getting ourselves to play at a level we expect than to worry about how San Francisco is going to approach the game," Casserly said.
Asked in San Francisco whether the injury to Stover will force the 49ers to reevaluate their "take-it-or-leave-it, final offer" to Dean, Walsh said, "I don't think anything will change our posture on Dean. We're in the posture of really doing everything we can to satisfy both parties. That's all we can do."
Dean, 32, reportedly is demanding about $800,000 for one year, plus other benefits, and has not reported since the start of training camp. Walsh said there have been no more talks with Dean or his agent since the 49ers' final offer was made two weeks ago.
On the positive side, Walsh said he was pleased with his team's performance against Detroit. He also thinks the players will be charged up for Washington.
"There was some confusion in our defensive backfield against the Lions," Walsh said, adding that the injuries will make it difficult to play man-to-man defense against the Redskins.
Against Detroit, he said, "We had guys trying to get (rookie nickel back Jeff) Fuller lined up correctly covering the right man. We also had three guys playing out of their usual positions.
"It would be easier if we played a zone defense (rather than man-to-man). We would not have that kind of a problem."
Otherwise, "All phases of our game were okay," Walsh said. "I can't say that's enough to beat the Redskins, though. It was just enough to beat Detroit. Now we play a Super Bowl team of a year ago and a team that many were saying was the greatest team of all time just prior to our game (in January).
"We'll go into the game very confident, I know that. We're confident that we can play well against this Redskins team. Looking at last year's game, just a number of unfortunate incidents or miscues on our part sort of kept us out of the game early. Then, once we began to execute, we did quite well."
Walsh said Monday's game should be similar to last year's since both teams have kept the same style and most of the same players.
"They're a big, powerful team. They have a great reputation for that power," he said. "We're not a power team. We're more of a finesse, execution team. We know a lot about them and they know a lot about us."