Talanoa Hufanga

Why Hufanga's impending 49ers return excites new DC Sorensen

NBC Universal, Inc.

As the 49ers begin their preseason training and conditioning program, new defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen is excited to have safety Talanoa Hufanga back with the team.

Speaking to the assembled media at a press conference Friday, Sorensen was asked what the defense is gaining when Hufanga returns from a torn ACL.

“Main thing with him is he's got experience, and he is a heck of a player,” Sorensen said. “He's really, really good at communicating, he's smart, he sees things, has a full understanding of our system, and when he gets back, we're going to be excited.

“I know he is excited. He was out there on the field the other day, and we're in phase two right now so we're on the field doing a little bit of work with our players and just talking to him he's excited. So when he's ready, he'll be ready and we'll be excited to have him back.” 

Hufanga has been a critical piece of San Francisco’s vaunted defense, and the 49ers were not the same team after he tore his ACL in week 11 of the 2023 season. Before the All-Pro went down last season, San Francisco’s defense gave up 15.7 points per game, and without him, the 49ers gave up 21.8 points per game (including the playoffs).

A steady veteran presence in the backfield will be essential for Sorensen as he begins his first season in charge of the defense, particularly after a series of struggles during the postseason last year. The 49ers struggled against the explosive offenses of the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions in the NFC playoffs and could not contain the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the closing stages of Super Bowl LVIII.

The subpar defensive play prompted Kyle Shanahan to fire defensive coordinator Steve Wilks three days after that Super Bowl loss, elevating Sorensen into his current role.

With a healthy Hufanga, the challenge of returning to the Super Bowl becomes a bit easier if he can return to his All-Pro form. While ACL tears were once career-ending injuries, the advancements in medical technology have made it much easier for players to recover and get back to playing at a high level.

For now, Hufanga will continue his rehab program with an eye on returning to the team full-time during training camp.

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast

Contact Us