SANTA CLARA -- After two games off, linebacker Patrick Willis has felt "amazing" at practice this week and is hoping to return Sunday when the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals.
"Lord's will, I'll be ready to go on Sunday," said Willis, who sustained a groin injury Sept. 22 against the Indianapolis Colts. " ... I'm still feeling it a little bit, but it's certainly a lot better than it was."
After warming up before last Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, Willis consulted with coach Jim Harbaugh and trainers before sitting out that 34-3 win. "Last week, I really tried to push it to go, and it just wasn't all the way there," Willis said. "What I didn't want to do was lie to myself and teammates and not give all of myself."
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Willis' comeback chances are "better" this week than last. The team officially will list his game-day status on Friday's injury report.
Without Willis (and linebacker Aldon Smith, who's on personal leave), the 49ers defense has yielded just 14 points and one touchdown in victories over the St. Louis Rams and Texans.
It cost Whitner $130 in court fees to file the request. He'll also have to purchase Nike's remaining replica jerseys with "Whitner" on them before the NFL allows him to don a new name on his game-day jersey. Contrary to an ESPN report Sunday, Whitner's name-change filing was not delayed by the federal-government shutdown, inasmuch as the name change is done on a county-government level.
Whitner has not allowed a touchdown in coverage this season after yielding eight touchdowns last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com. "He's played even better than he had last year when he made the Pro Bowl," Fangio said. "He's still tackling very well. He's running our operation back there, with a rookie. He's just playing with a lot more confidence. And he's playing a little bit faster."