Head injury sidelines Saints RB Thomas vs. 49ers

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas was knocked out of

Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff against the San Francisco 49ers

after taking a hit to the head in the first quarter.

The team said Thomas would not return.

Thomas caught a pass from Drew Brees on the Saints’ opening

drive and absorbed a vicious blow from Donte Whitner just short of

the goal line. Whitner jarred the ball loose, and Patrick Willis

recovered for the 49ers at their own 2-yard line.

The hard hits piled up early in San Francisco’s first home

playoff game in nine years.

Niners center Jonathan Goodwin got tangled up blocking in front

of screen pass to Frank Gore, leaving with a lower left leg injury

with 7:33 left in the second quarter. Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl

with the Saints two years ago, returned after Adam Snyder replaced

him for one series.

San Francisco receiver and kick-return specialist Ted Ginn Jr.

also limped to the locker room just before halftime with an

apparent right ankle injury. He missed one series in the third

quarter before returning a punt and rejoining the offense only to

get injured again.

Ginn left late in the third quarter with a right knee injury

after getting jammed at the line of scrimmage. The team said his

return was questionable.

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham also limped off the field after

getting tangled up with Whitner earlier in the first quarter.

Officials called a 23-yard pass interference penalty on Whitner on

the play.

Graham returned for New Orleans’ next possession and caught a

14-yard TD pass from Brees in the second quarter.