SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Joe Montana's stay on injured reserve could extend well beyond the four weeks the 49ers quarterback is scheduled to miss.
The question of how long the healing takes comes down to what's hurt and what's not.
Dr. Arthur White, who performed surgery on Montana in 1986 to remove a ruptured disk in his back and whose Daly City clinic is treating Montana's elbow, confirmed recent published reports, saying the injury is a torn ligament as well as a torn tendon. He said it will require a minimum of three months to heal completely. If Montana were out three months, he would miss 12 games.
The 49ers have said Montana's injury involves only small tears in the tendon of the elbow and that rest over the next few weeks could take care of the problem.
"It's like any other injury. If you sprained your ankle, we'd say OK, it's four weeks," 49ers vice president John McVay said, describing the minimum time a player must miss when placed on a team's injured reserve list after the start of the regular season. "But what if the four weeks is up and your ankle still hurts? Then you still can't do anything. So in that case, for Joe, it could be longer, yes, it could."
"But right now, what we're hearing is that, we're hearing positive things."
Dr. Jeffrey Saal, a sports-medicine specialist who works with White, confirmed that he is the physician treating Montana's injury on the recommendation of Michael Dillingham, the 49ers' team physician. Saal would not comment further on the treatment or nature of Montana's injury.
But White told a New York newspaper last week that Montana will require more than four weeks to recover from the ligament injury, in which the quarterback "tore a few fibers.
"When they first tear off, it hurts to use it," White said in an interview with New York Newsday. "Our practice is taking care of the elbow. He has a torn ligament.
"I don't know how fast it will heal, but it will take a minimum of three months to totally heal."
White compared the ligament damage to that of a sprained ankle.
"You don't operate on a sprained ankle, you let the soft tissue totally heal.
"If you could operate. . . he would miss the whole season. If surgery is performed, it will take place after the season."