49ers center Eric Heitmann’s neck injury, which required season-ending surgery four weeks ago, is being blamed on a “nutcracker” drill during last summer’s training camp, Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The 31-year-old Heitmann suffered a stinger during a training camp practice. On the next day, Heitmann suffered a fractured fibula. The 49ers ultimately placed their veteran center on injured reserve.
As Maiocco notes, several 49ers players were beat up as a direct result of the drill in 2009, but former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary kept the drill as part of last summer’s camp. Singletary had no comment when reached by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
“I have no response to that. I don’t really know what Eric’s prior situation was, so I’m not going to respond to that,” Singletary said.
ESPN’s Mike Sando provided a summary of the drill in August of 2009:
“The setup is simple. One player steps into a lane wide enough to accommodate one NFL-sized person. Another similarly sized player from a corresponding position group steps into the lane across from him. They lower into three-point stances, their helmets perhaps a foot apart, before launching into one another violently. They lock onto one another, churning their legs until one man prevails decisively.”