SANTA CLARA, Calif. — 49ers DE Justin Smith said he is increasingly getting used to wearing a brace on his left arm.
The second-team All-Pro returned Saturday against the Packers after missing two games with a partially torn left triceps. He had eight tackles and four quarterback pressures while playing 53 of San Francisco's 58 defensive snaps.
"It felt pretty good for the most part; just getting used to it, playing with it," Smith told csnbayarea.com about playing with the brace. "It should be even better this week after going through it and knowing how it felt and what to expect. It's a love-hate relationship right now. It's doing its job. It felt pretty strong."
Smith, who will need offseason surgery, said he isn't worried about making the injury worse. "It's like anything. If it's half-torn or whatever, it could tear the rest of the way," Smith said. "I'm not really concerned about it. Just going to go out there and do the best I can and see what happens."
LB Patrick Willis said Smith's presence makes everybody better.
"Any time he's out there, you have to account for him and almost have to put two guys on him," Willis said. "But even when you put two guys on him, he still has a chance to win."
Falcon returns: Atlanta CB Christopher Owens practiced for the first time since injuring a hamstring Dec. 22 against the Lions. Though he was limited, he said he hopes to play Sunday. Meanwhile, Falcons DE John Abraham remains hobbled by an injured left ankle he aggravated Sunday but said he expects to play.
Trending upward: Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez, who has said all season he was "95 percent" he would retire, won his first playoff game last week. But Falcons TE Michael Palmer said it didn't make him any less likely to retire.
"He told me he's moving up to 97 percent sure," he said. "From what I can get from him, if we win the Super Bowl, I think he'll ride off into the sunset."
Jinxed? The 49ers won their first two games before losing. Then came two wins and a loss, two wins and a tie, two wins and a loss, two wins and a loss, and now two wins, including over the Packers in last week's division round. If the pattern holds, that means a loss Sunday.