49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks could return to starting lineup against Seahawks after benching

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SANTA CLARA, California — San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expects outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks to return to the 49ers' starting lineup Sunday at Seattle after his benching last week for missing a team meeting.

"Yeah, I think he will, provided he keeps practicing like he did yesterday," Fangio said Thursday.

Brooks had started 60 straight games under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh before sitting out a 24-13 loss at Oakland. Brooks said after the game he inadvertently missed a morning defensive meeting Dec. 2 but showed up an hour later for a second meeting focused on domestic violence. Fangio said Thursday that Brooks also arrived 20 minutes late to a Dec. 3 meeting, and the coach didn't know why.

Brooks apologized to Fangio and had a strong practice Wednesday.

"We talked on Tuesday. He's fine," Fangio said of Brooks. "Had a good day at practice yesterday and expect him to be fine."

The team moved its workout indoors Thursday to a nearby facility because of a major storm hitting Northern California with heavy rain and strong winds.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree downplayed the venue change, even though bad weather rarely interferes with the schedule in the Bay Area. The coaches were planning more of a mental preparation day given the conditions.

"A lot of teams practice indoors," Crabtree said.

For Brooks, last week wasn't his first infraction of the season, leading to the coaches' decision to sit him. Harbaugh said he was in a "backup role" against the Raiders and Brooks thought he would play in some capacity.

Brooks was benched Nov. 16 for the second half of a 16-10 road win against the Giants for heated words he directed at defensive line coach Jim Tomsula in the second quarter.

Brooks was frustrated with his playing time on a day linebacker Aldon Smith returned for his season debut following a nine-game suspension. The outside linebacker apologized to Tomsula and said they have moved forward.

"It was difficult to do, but it was an easy decision. He missed an entire meeting on Tuesday and then was 20 minutes late on Wednesday, so, at that point, and on top of what happened in New York, it was just time to not start him and take drastic measures," Fangio said. "Told him he wouldn't start on Wednesday. He knew that. And last week was not a good week of practice for him after that happened, so, that's when I basically decided that he wouldn't play very much unless we needed him."

The ninth-year pro has 27 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble for the 49ers (7-6).

Brooks said he doesn't know what his future might hold with the 49ers, who might opt to cut him given the depth at linebacker and the emergence of talented young players such as Chris Borland and Aaron Lynch. In February 2012, Brooks signed a six-year contract extension through the 2017 season.

Brooks' return could add a key dimension to a pass rush that was nonexistent Sunday against Raiders rookie Derek Carr, who faced little pressure and had ample time to find open receivers downfield.

"It's going to be needed. I think we have the guys to do it," Harbaugh said. "Look forward to a better performance in that area."

Seattle's Russell Wilson is among the best scrambling quarterbacks in the NFL.

"The only other guy that scrambles as well as this guy in the last 10, 15, 20 years, may be (Jets QB) Michael Vick," Fangio said. "Vick was quicker to go. This guy is quicker to keep looking downfield, looking for the throw, seeing if you broke down in coverage because of the length of the play."

On the offensive side this weekend, San Francisco is likely to use its third different center. Rookie Marcus Martin is nursing a right knee injury that kept him out Wednesday and limited his work Thursday. He replaced the injured Daniel Kilgore in October after Kilgore's fractured left ankle required surgery. Joe Looney is the leading candidate to step in at center.

NOTES: RT Anthony Davis, who has missed the last three games with a concussion, participated in a limited role for the second straight day. "Getting there," he said. "Frustrating's not the word. It's been rough." ... Kicker Phil Dawson and punter Andy Lee got their extra practice in Wednesday since they were unable to kick indoors Thursday.


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