Dre Greenlaw

Greenlaw still emotional about ‘devastating' Super Bowl injury

NBC Universal, Inc.

SANTA CLARA — Linebacker Dre Greenlaw is three months into an expected nine-month journey to return to the football field.

He often thinks back to that February evening in Las Vegas when he sustained a torn Achilles as he prepared to take the field after a second-quarter change of possession in Super Bowl LVIII.

“Sometimes you get a little flashback and shed a couple of tears thinking about it,” Greenlaw told NBC Sports Bay Area in his first interview since the 49ers’ 25-22 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Greenlaw played the 49ers' first 12 defensive snaps in the game and registered three tackles. He could not continue after sustaining a freak, non-contact injury. Greenlaw underwent surgery four days later.

“It’s definitely an emotional thing because you know how hard you worked for that moment, how hard your team worked to get in that moment,” Greenlaw said. “You’re that close to it and you can’t go out there and compete. So it just kind of feels like you left everybody hanging.

“So it's one of the things that you just kind of think about and you just try not to cry.”

Greenlaw had been battling an issue with his right Achilles that kept him out of the 49ers’ Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams. He was on the injury report leading up to the NFC divisional round game against the Green Bay Packers. Greenlaw played against the Packers and came through with two crucial interceptions to seal the victory.

He said he was initially confused when he felt something in his lower leg as he leapt forward off the 49ers’ sideline to take the field as Kansas City was getting set for their fourth offensive possession of the game.

“Whenever I took the step, I felt my Achilles,” Greenlaw said. “For some reason, I just thought it was the right one.

“I thought, ‘Oh, no, somebody stepped on my right Achilles,’ but then I’m reaching for my left one. It ended up being my left Achilles. It was just a devastating, horrible feeling.”

Greenlaw said he initially thought -- or hoped -- his condition was not serious. He began hopping back toward the bench area, still uncertain of what happened.

“I took that step and that's when I had no power on my leg, no nothing,” Greenlaw said. “It was kind of dead.”

One of the storylines for the week leading up to the game was the 49ers’ soft practice field at UNLV, where a layer of sod was rolled out over an artificial surface field.

Greenlaw said he did not believe the practice conditions led directly to his injury.

“My right Achilles was already in pain that whole month, so I wouldn’t say, necessarily, that (the practice field) was the cause of it,” Greenlaw said. “It probably didn’t help. It (the grass) was pretty soft. For me, I don’t really pay attention to the field, other than if it has holes in it or I’m slipping. If it’s not one of those two, I feel like I can battle any field.”

Greenlaw said the issues he experienced with his right Achilles probably caused him to overcompensate and ultimately led to the injury to his left lower leg.

Greenlaw faces long, arduous months of physical therapy to get back on the field as he enters the final year of his contract.

General manager John Lynch recently said he expects Greenlaw to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, which would require him to miss at least the first four games of the regular season.

Greenlaw said his body will dictate when he is able to return to action. With the team fully expecting to return to the postseason, Greenlaw wants to make sure that when he is back, he is back to finish the season strong.

“When I feel like I can go out there and I really contribute and bring everything I got, I'm just going to do that every game,” he said. “I don't know if it's going to be two, three, five, six, eight or 10 (games).

"But when I do get the opportunity, I'm just going to play like it's the Super Bowl every game.”

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