LAS VEGAS — Safety Talanoa Hufanga, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in November, is one of the 49ers’ most positive-thinking players, so it’s no surprise how he feels about watching this Super Bowl run.
“It’s great. There is no bittersweetness,” Hufanga said. “This is the Super Bowl. We’re going to win a ring. That’s our goal — as a player, you never want to come in and lose. I’m very happy for my guys.”
Hufanga is one of eight players on Injured Reserve who likely won’t play for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Defensive tackle Kalia Davis has been practicing for two weeks and is questionable to come off IR if needed.
No other 49ers required an injury designation. Practicing fully Friday were tight end George Kittle (toe), defensive tackle Arik Armstead (foot, knee), cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle), and Davis (knee).
“For all the guys who have to miss this due to injury, and all the guys in the NFL who’d want to be in our position, we’re blessed to be here and we’ve got to take advantage of our opportunity,” said Armstead, who praised how great Hufanga has been on and off the field for the 49ers.
While away due to knee surgery, Hufanga was happy to see the 49ers, to his surprise, continue his tradition of awarding a kukui-nut lei to each game’s star player. “That was really cool that they kept it going,” said Hufanga, who is of Tongan descent. “Really, it was the Philly game (on Dec. 3) when I saw Deebo and BA on my phone. That was special.”
Hufanga was a week removed from his knee injury when he saw a postgame image of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk walking off the Philadelphia field after that 42-19 win on Dec. 3. Samuel received the kukui-nut necklace for his three-touchdown effort.
After the 49ers won the NFC Championship Game, Hufanga personally awarded that lei to Brock Purdy. George Kittle’s three-touchdown game against Dallas in November got him a similar honor from Hufanga. Back at the 49ers’ locker room in Santa Clara, over 20 lockers have the kukui-nut necklace hanging from door handles, showing how Hufanga spread his love and appreciation.
Two months ago, Hufanga had his anterior cruciate ligament reconstructed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neil ElAttrache, who did the surgeries on Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jerick McKinnon after they tore their ACLs in previous seasons with the 49ers. Hufanga said he’s spoken with Bosa about the recovery, and although Bosa has often discussed the mental hurdles of rehabilitating alone, that is not an issue for Hufanga.
“Honestly, mentally has never been a problem,” Hufanga added. “I’m a positive but I’m a quiet person so being by myself is almost exciting. I really love myself and my family. Being around my daughter (Amehlia) and wife (Desiree) is the best thing I can do.”
An All-Pro last year in his second NFL season, he’ll continue rehabilitating this offseason at the 49ers’ headquarters. Although a return for training camp seems a reasonable goal, Hufanga added: “I don’t want to put any time limits. I didn’t want to rush things or wait too long.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ sharp practice included a sidearm completion that drew praise from ex-NFL quarterback Mike Vick, who was in attendance for the 66-minute session at the Raiders’ facility.
The Chiefs ruled out All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney (pectoral) and tackle Prince Tega Wanogho (quadriceps). McKinnon is questionable to come off Injured Reserve (groin).
“We’ve gotten everything done that we needed to get done,” coach Andy Reid told pool reporter Peter King. “They’ve done good work. They’ve been focused in. I get to see it every day. That’s kind of their makeup, whether things are going good or not going good. It starts with Pat and Kelce and Chris Jones and [cornerback L’Jarius] Sneed. The players have maximized what we’ve given them as coaches, and they’ve done a nice job out here.”
Wide receiver Rashee Rice practiced a day after leaving Thursday’s session once his foot got stepped on during practice. Reid has yet to count out guard Joe Thuney (pectoral) but Nick Allegretti is in line to start at left guard. The Chiefs plan to hold a mock game Saturday before taking a team photo.