ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons starting safety Erik Harris needs season-ending surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, a source told ESPN on Monday.
Harris suffered the injury on the first drive of Sunday's 29-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers -- he appeared in six plays -- and was replaced by Jaylinn Hawkins.
Harris, 31, started 12 games for Atlanta this season after signing a one-year deal this past offseason. He had put up some of the best numbers of his career for the Falcons, including tying a career-high with eight passes defended. Harris' 64 tackles are the second-most of his career.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith had no updates earlier Monday on either Harris or outside linebacker Dante Fowler, who suffered a calf injury in the second half against the Panthers.
"That's a blow just to a guy who has been effective," outside linebacker Steven Means said Monday, before the extent of Harris' injury was known. "If either one of those guys [Harris or Fowler] miss any time, leaders of the defense, so I hope to God that it's not the case."
Means did point to the Falcons' ability to have players step in for injured starters before this season, including linebacker Mykal Walker when Deion Jones missed the Jacksonville game and Hawkins in various spots this season
Hawkins or second-round pick Richie Grant would likely take Harris' place in the lineup beginning Sunday against San Francisco. Grant, however, missed the game against Carolina with an ankle injury, and his status for the 49ers game is still unclear.
NFL Network first reported Harris' injury.