49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga will miss the rest of season with torn ACL

San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during his team’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said tests on Monday confirmed the original diagnosis and that there was no other extensive damage to the knee. Shanahan said Hufanga will be expected to recover before the start of next season.

Hufanga emerged last season as a key part of San Francisco’s defense when he earned All-Pro honors. He had three interceptions and 52 tackles this season before going down with the injury.

The injury to Hufanga forces third-round rookie Ji’Ayir Brown into the lineup for the Niners defense. Brown had played only 30 defensive snaps all season before thriving when he had to take on a bigger role against the Buccaneers.

“You’re never going through some sort of like redshirt year,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “You never know when your opportunity is going to come. He was obviously fully ready when his time came.”

Tampa Bay tried to target Brown, but he stood up to the test in his first real challenge in the NFL. He broke up a fourth down pass to Mike Evans in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter and then intercepted a pass in the end zone on the next drive to help seal the win.

“Every week, I’ve been preparing for that day. I never knew when that day was going to come, but I was just preparing consistently every day,” Brown said after the game. “We were working hard, meeting for extra time with the coach. When my number was called today, I was fortunate enough to go out there and execute the job.”

Brown finished the game with four tackles and three passes defensed, showing the kind of play in a game that the 49ers had seen in practices in recent weeks.

“It’s one of the reasons we went for him,” Shanahan said. “We know we needed some depth there. … He’s been practicing like he knew this moment was coming. He’s been locked in which is extremely impressive for a rookie. I think that’s why he was ready for his moment last night and made some big plays to help us win. I’m excited for him for his opportunity, but really bummed about Huf.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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