LAS VEGAS -- After a difficult season -- one in which his teammates said most players wouldn't have even been able to stay on the field as much as he had -- San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw's leg gave out at the most devastating of moments.
As Greenlaw prepared to run back onto the field for another Niners defensive series with 9:26 left in the second quarter of Sunday's 25-22 Super Bowl LVIII overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he injured his left leg. Coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed after the game that Greenlaw tore his Achilles tendon.
Fellow San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner reacted in anger upon seeing Greenlaw hurt. Defensive end Nick Bosa watched in stunned silence as Greenlaw hobbled the few feet to the sideline, where medical staff began treating him. Moments later, a teary-eyed Greenlaw was taken to the locker room on a cart.
"It was hard. Sometimes when things like that happen, it could sway the momentum just because it's such an emotional feeling," Bosa said. "Dre is a one-of-one human being. He was pushing through so much this year, and I think 99% of players wouldn't have been able to do what he did. He put his body on the line for this, and it sucks we couldn't get him [a win]."
As often happens with Achilles injuries, Greenlaw's came without contact and at the most inopportune of times. The Niners had just punted the ball back to the Chiefs before Greenlaw and his defensive teammates were about to go back on the field.
Greenlaw was able to stand and limp to the sideline, but he and the Niners seemed to have a pretty good idea of what had just happened.
The 49ers initially said Greenlaw was questionable to return, but he was soon ruled out.
Greenlaw had three tackles before the injury. Oren Burks replaced him at weakside linebacker and finished with five tackles.
Greenlaw missed a Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams with Achilles tendonitis and was still dealing with it leading up to the NFC divisional round win against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 20. He also sustained groin, ankle, hamstring, shoulder and hip injuries at various points during the campaign.
Still, he played in 15 regular-season games and finished with 120 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four pass breakups.
An Achilles injury often comes with a lengthy recovery that would seem to put Greenlaw's availability for Week 1 of next season in question -- that is, unless he can follow the suggestion of tight end George Kittle.
"Dre is the heartbeat of our defense ... to lose a guy like Dre, it's tough. He's just such a fantastic football player, and he's everything the Niners stand for, so to lose him, it just really, really sucks."