When Laken Tomlinson went down during the 49ers’ final game of the season against the Rams Sunday, the injury looked serious. He had to be carted from the field. It was feared Tomlinson, the starter at left guard, had torn ligaments in his knee and could be out for at least the start of the 2019 season.
Yet Tomlinson and the 49ers got some good news this week when doctors found he had torn his medial collateral ligament (MCL), not his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). While an MCL tear isn’t good, it isn’t as serious an injury in terms of recovery time. Tomlinson, who’s resurrected his NFL career with the 49ers, should be ready to participate in spring drills.
“It’s good news in terms of what we might have feared,” said general manager John Lynch in a news conference this week. “His ACL is intact so that’s a good thing. His MCL is torn and that’s going to take some time, but I think they are talking three months as opposed to obviously what an ACL could be.”
Tomlinson, 26, was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2015 NFL selection process out of Duke, but the 6-foot-3, 312-pounder was traded to the Lions the same day. Then in August of 2017, Tomlinson, who had fallen out of favor with the Lions, was dealt to the 49ers for a 2019 fifth-round draft choice.
Since then, Tomlinson has become the team’s starter at left guard and this season, in fact, was voted the Bobb McKittrick Award by his fellow offensive linemen, which is given to the O-lineman who “best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice” displayed by McKittrick during his 21-year career with the team.
In June, the 49ers signed Tomlinson to a three-year contract extension worth as much as $18 million. At the time, Lynch said Tomlinson had worked hard and become a valuable member of the offense.
“Laken is a very talented player who has improved consistently since joining the team,” said Lynch.
Now, after rehabilitation, Tomlinson is expected to maintain his position as the starter at left guard in 2019.