SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis will miss the remainder of the season and require surgery for a strained muscle in his left big toe, a person with knowledge of the injury said Tuesday.
Willis will soon be moved onto the season-ending injured reserve list. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn't announced details of Willis' status or any updates on what's next.
A seven-time Pro Bowler, Willis has missed the past three games for San Francisco (5-4) after injuring the toe in the third quarter at St. Louis on Oct. 13. He had 34 tackles and an interception this season for the Niners, who have reached the NFC championship game in each of the past three seasons.
Willis had hoped the injury wasn't so serious to sideline him long term. He missed practice last week after returning in a limited role the previous week.
After resting through the Oct. 26 bye, Willis was back as part of the 49ers' full active squad on the field for the start of practice Oct. 29, but he had been limited primarily to individual work.
This is a big loss to one of the NFL's leading defenses, though the 49ers are expected to have Aldon Smith back Sunday on the road against the New York Giants.
Smith is set to begin practicing this week after serving his nine-game suspension by the NFL for violations of the league's substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.
In addition, 2013 All-Pro NaVorro Bowman could be cleared to begin practice this week, opening a 21-day window for the team to activate him or place him on IR.
Bowman is recovering from surgery on his left knee after he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a devastating injury in the NFC championship game loss at Seattle last January.
Rookie Chris Borland has filled in for Willis and been spectacular, recording 18 tackles in a loss to the Rams two weeks ago then 17 more tackles in an overtime win at New Orleans on Sunday.
The NFL Network first reported Willis would need toe surgery.