Patrick Willis has a fractured hand; Chris Culliver carted off the field

Before you Niners fans get to freaking out, Willis’ injury isn’t considered serious. He’s expected to be back to making grown men hurt by the time the regular season kicks off. But, after Willis left practice early on Wednesday, here’s the news that awaited the masses Thursday morning:

“Slight fracture” is good, though, no? Well, it’s not good that he’s hurt. But it could be a lot worse. Like, on a scale of one-to-10, with one being a dislocated pinkie and 10 being, “OH MY GOD, HIS HAND FELL OFF,” this is probably a three. A fractured bone in the hand is way down on the list of injuries that keep football players from playing. If the regular season started tomorrow, I get the feeling Patrick Willis would be there to lay down the boom, even if it meant his hand be so wrapped into a club that it’s basically a weapon banned by the TSA.

However, some potentially not-so-delightful news for Chris Culliver. The Niners cornerback was reportedly carted off the field on Thursday after injuring his knee during a punt coverage drill. Matt Maiocco was on the scene:

Cullver went down with the injury while working as a gunner against rookie Marcus Cooper in a punt coverage drill. Culliver remained on the ground for several minutes, as a 49ers assistant athletic trainer Manny Rivera examined him. Coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell stood over Culliver, who was in obvious pain as he was helped to a cart on the side of the practice field.

Culliver is scheduled for an MRI. Hate to speculate publicly, but being carted off the field + going to get MRI ≠ a whole lot of optimism. (UPDATE: It’s reportedly a torn ACL.) If Culliver does end up having to miss an extended amount of time, it does help clear up the logjam at cornerback for the Niners a little. But even though Culliver spent a lot of time looking at the back of Ravens receivers’ jerseys in the Super Bowl, he did figure prominently into the Niners’ plans at cornerback—not just this season, as the potential third cornerback on the field, but beyond, when only he and Carlos Rodgers are under contract at the position beginning next year. 2013: just not meant to be Chris Culliver’s year.

Meantime, the Niners, who already came into camp with a bunch of guys hurt, keep dropping like flies. Also among those who have picked up injuries since camp kicked off last week are Aldon Smith, Darius Fleming, Jonathan Goodwin and almost every relevant person whose primary job it is to catch footballs from Colin Kaepernick.

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