The 49ers cleared up their fullback situation on Wednesday by placing starter Bruce Miller on injured reserve with a left scapula fracture and re-signing veteran Will Tukuafu.
Miller played in all 14 games this season, emerging as San Francisco’s third-leading receiver with 25 receptions for 243 yards including 12 first downs while lead blocking Frank Gore to a seventh 1,000 yard season.
Miller suffered what was initially thought to be a stinger after being hit on his left side by Buccaneers cornerback Keith Tandy. He got up grimacing and holding his left arm, but did not return and appeared in a sling post-game.
On Monday, head coach Jim Harbaugh commented on losing Miller:
“Very significant. He does so many things in the protection and the run game. Receiving out of the backfield. He is a multi-talented, multi-use player. Special teams contributor on two, three phases, so it’s a loss.”
Then in a rare instance, Harbaugh then threw out a familiar name as a potential insurance candidate:
“As we speak, yes. We’re bringing in [FB] Owen Marecic, hopefully in route, and we’ll look at our options.”
Harbaugh’s “perfect football player” at Stanford, Marecic — who had a brief stint with the 49ers earlier this year — never made it to the active roster.
Instead, the 49ers will turn to in-house options like Miller’s versatile backup Anthony Dixon, defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs, linebacker Michael Wilhoite, and tight ends Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier to fill the void.
Wednesday’s signing of Tukuafu brings back a versatile player who knows the system. Since first signing with the 49ers in 2010, Tukuafu has appeared in 18 games on offense, defense and special teams recording 15 tackles and one fumble recovery.