SAN FRANCISCOThe soap opera that is the 2014 49ers linebacker core isn’t going anywhere.

First, there was the absence of All-Pro inside linebacker NaVarro Bowman, whose recovery from ACL surgery has kept him off the field for the entirety of the season. Then, there was the nine-game suspension of Aldon Smith, whose stellar NFL career has only been hampered by his own run-ins with the law.

Then came the season-long loss of Bowman’s fellow All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis, whose replacement, rookie Chris Borland, has taken the league by storm, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration after just three career starts.

Even considering the extended absences of so many superstars, the unit hasn’t skipped a beat, bearing the torch as one of the best in the league in their absence.

Yet somehow, Sunday’s return of Smith only heightened the season-long drama. Ahmad Brooks, a 2013 Pro Bowl selection himself, expressed his displeasure with Smith’s return in perhaps the most aggressive manner a player can, taking himself out of Sunday’s game with the New York Giants.

Upset about splitting playing time with Smith and Aaron Lynch, Brooks only played in the first two-plus series of the game, sitting on the bench with his helmet, cleats, and ankle tape removed for the remainder of the 16-10 victory.

After being used as trade bait prior to this year’s trade deadline, it appears that Brooks, a 7-year veteran of the Niners, may be playing his final downs for the team.