The San Francisco 49ers will be without safety Talanoa Hufanga for the rest of the season after he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee Sunday.
After a 27-13 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Hufanga had “most likely” torn the ligament but further testing would be needed to confirm that. Hufanga had those tests Monday morning and the Niners’ fears were confirmed, though the imaging showed no additional damage in the knee.
Hufanga, who was a first-team All-Pro in 2022, suffered the injury on a pass play with 8:40 left in the third quarter. On the play, Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield dumped a pass off in the right flat to running back Rachaad White.
As White worked upfield, Hufanga closed in to attempt the tackle but bit on an inside fake from White, who ran past him for an 11-yard gain. Hufanga planted his right leg into the ground and when he attempted to turn with White’s cut, the knee appeared to buckle.
Hufanga was slow to get up after the play and went straight to the blue medical tent on the sideline. After spending a few minutes in the tent, a cart came out and took Hufanga to the locker room. He was ruled out almost immediately, a sign that the Niners believed the injury to be serious.
Through 10 games, Hufanga is fourth on the team in tackles (51) and tied for first in interceptions (3).
In his third season, Hufanga will be eligible for a contract extension for the first time in the offseason. His injury makes that situation a bit murkier, but Shanahan indicated that Hufanga should be ready to go at the start of next season.
The Niners turned to rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown to replace Hufanga on Sunday and will continue to do so moving forward. Brown, who has mostly contributed on special teams, had a couple of rough moments soon after entering but settled in and finished with four tackles, three passes defended and his first career interception to seal the win against the Bucs.