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Originally published December 21, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Page modified December 21, 2012 at 8:43 PM

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Richard Sherman expected to play vs. 49ers

Sherman could be joined by Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond, who are both listed as questionable with hamstring injuries.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

San Francisco @ Seahawks,

5:20 p.m., Ch. 5

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Having Sherman and Thurmond available for the weekend would be huge! Thurmond - when... MORE
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RENTON — Cornerback Richard Sherman was headed back to Seattle after a league hearing Friday, defensive tackle Alan Branch was certain to return to the field from an ankle injury and cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant might not be far behind.

Each of those facts is a positive sign for the Seahawks heading into Sunday night's game against the division-leading 49ers.

The prognosis for one of the 49ers' most important players is much less clear. Defensive lineman Justin Smith sat out practice for a third consecutive day because of an elbow injury and is listed as questionable. That puts his streak of 185 consecutive games at risk.

"Amazing man," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters in the Bay Area. "Amazing football player. Amazing accomplishment."

He might be a missing man for the 49ers on Sunday, though. That would be a huge loss for the 49ers, as Smith is one of the most important players on a defense that does not substitute very much.

Meanwhile, Seattle expects to get Sherman back after missing the past two days because of an appeals hearing regarding his positive test for a banned substance.

"Been a long day but very productive," Sherman posted on his Twitter account Friday.

Sherman faces a possible four-game suspension if his appeal is denied, but no decision is expected over the weekend. Sherman stated he would not answer questions regarding the appeal, but made it clear he planned on playing in Sunday's game.

"The result will be announced soon enough," Sherman said via Twitter. "And I will be out there with my teammates Sunday!"

Coach Pete Carroll conceded it wasn't ideal to have Sherman absent for two days of practice, but wasn't worried that it would leave Sherman unprepared to face a 49ers team that is starting Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.

"He is as smart a football player as we have on our team," Carroll said of Sherman. "He's totally into everything that we're doing and we can tell when he's not out there because he is so sharp and he communicates to other guys."

Sherman might not be the only one returning to the defensive backfield, as Trufant and Thurmond each returned from hamstring injuries on Friday. Trufant has been out the past three games while Thurmond missed last week's game. They're listed as questionable, which translates to a 50-50 chance of playing.

"We'll go all the way to game time with those guys," Carroll said.

That includes receiver Sidney Rice, who has not practiced this week because of a sore knee. Carroll said Rice worked out separately on Friday, but that he'd decide on Sunday whether Rice looked capable of playing.

Branch practiced for a second consecutive day, and is expected to play after his ankle injury from Sunday turned out to be less serious than it was feared.

Note

• Defensive tackle Jason Jones suffered cartilage damage in his knee during last week's game, an injury more serious than first suspected.

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