Niners Are Getting Some Reinforcements

Alexander, Ford and Tartt could return Saturday for San Francisco in its playoff clash with the Vikings

When the 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings Saturday in the first playoff game ever at Levi’s Stadium, they’ll welcome back a key player.

Linebacker Kwon Alexander, who tore a chest muscle in late October and was believed to be out for the rest of the season, is back practicing with the team and has a good chance of playing in the NFC divisional round playoff game, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Alexander could be one of three defensive standouts to return against the Vikings. Edge rusher Dee Ford and safety Jaquiski Tartt also have returned to practice and are expected to play Saturday. Ford missed the final three games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, while Tartt sat out the past four games with a rib injury.

The 49ers defense, after a terrific start to this season, faltered late in the year after losing several key players.

Alexander, in his first season with the 49ers after four years in Tampa Bay, played in the team’s first eight games of 2019 and was a difference maker. He was in on 34 tackles, had a forced fumble, an interception, four passes defensed, a half-sack and two tackles for loss.

When Alexander returned to practice last week, he told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com that it felt “legendary.”

“I’m just happy to be back out there,” he said. “It was fun to be back and just trying to get ready.”

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters there’s “definitely a chance” Alexander will return against the Vikings, but wants to see how his progress is this week. Shanahan said if San Francisco wins this weekend, Alexander would almost certainly be ready for the NFC Championship Game, which would be against the Packers-Seahawks winner.

The Vikings, who were 10-6 in the regular season, upset the Saints, 26-20, in overtime Sunday. The 13-3 49ers had a bye.

Saturday’s 49ers-Vikings game is set to kick off at 1:35 p.m. The 49ers are early 6½-point favorites.

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