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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dilfer to start at QB vs. Rams

Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After Alex Smith and 49ers coach Mike Nolan reached a temporary peace in their spat about the quarterback's injured arm, Trent Dilfer capped his first day as San Francisco's new starter by getting in a fight with a rookie defensive back in practice.

The 49ers might be losing every week, but at least they're getting interesting.

Dilfer will start for the 49ers (2-7) on Sunday in place of Smith, who aired one of his team's many problems in public this week by finally acknowledging a serious arm injury has been affecting his play during San Francisco's seven-game losing streak.

Dilfer, the 14-year veteran who struggled through three straight losses while filling in for Smith earlier in the year, reclaimed the starting job Thursday for at least one week, though Smith's injury could sideline him for the season.

Dilfer then went after cornerback Tarell Brown in Thursday's practice after an apparent exchange of trash talk. Teammates had to separate the 35-year-old Super Bowl winner from the 22-year-old rookie from Texas -- and given the way this week is going, Nolan wasn't even surprised.

"When things are important to people, they show their emotions in a lot of ways," Nolan said. "Out here on the football field, you can show your emotions in a lot of ways. The only thing I'm worried about it somebody getting hurt. Other than that, they can punch each other all they want."

In that case, a few haymakers might do the pent-up Niners a world of good.

A day after Smith and Nolan traded veiled criticisms, they were more harmonious Thursday. Smith and Nolan had a lengthy meeting Wednesday following the quarterback's public disclosure that his recently separated right shoulder led to a forearm injury that prevents him from throwing well. Smith and Nolan previously denied Smith's arm injury was causing his poor play.

"Alex has got good toughness," Nolan said. "I've never questioned that about him. In the long term, Alex is part of the solution here. ... Any time you're injured, it does something to you, but the communication needs to be better than it has been."

The 49ers still aren't certain whether Smith's injuries will keep him out for the season, though Smith has entertained the possibility. So with newly revealed fractures in a locker room that usually seems united under Nolan's leadership, the 49ers will turn to Dilfer as they attempt to stop their skid Sunday at home against the St. Louis Rams (1-8).
"There's no time for me to be sympathetic [toward Smith]," said Dilfer, who has a close relationship with the former No. 1 draft pick. "My job is to go out and play the best football I can play. ... My relationship with Alex won't change, but I don't have time for that drama or any other type of drama."

Dilfer got his first snaps since 2005 after Smith was injured on the third play of San Francisco's loss to Seattle on Sept. 30. Dilfer went 47-of-90 for 463 yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions for the 49ers.

Though Smith's 57.2 passer rating is the worst among all quarterbacks with enough snaps to qualify, it's still higher than Dilfer's 55.0. Those struggling quarterbacks are just two reasons San Francisco's offense is last in the league in several categories.

"I have some major things I need to improve on from the last time I played, so it's time for me to do that," Dilfer said.

Smith, who sat out practice for the second straight day, acknowledged a bit of regret for airing his communication problems with Nolan in public before discussing them fully with the head coach.

"This is like a family, it's so tight," Smith said. "Mike and I have been close ever since I was drafted. You're going to have disagreements. It's going to happen in any family. It's working through this. Could I have done anything differently? Yeah, maybe. He said I need to communicate better, and I need to."

Smith will be in uniform Sunday, but Nolan hasn't decided whether Smith or third-stringer Shaun Hill will be the backup QB. Before Dilfer threw down with Brown, Hill hit his finger on a teammate's helmet Thursday -- so receiver Arnaz Battle, a former quarterback at Notre Dame, took the last few practice snaps for the scout team.

Smith said he might travel to Alabama to meet with Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who has reviewed the results of his recent MRIs, but doesn't have any current plans to do so. Smith realizes he could be done for the season.

"It will have to do with what the doctors think is best for the long term," Smith said. "I think the point is to come back when you're functional."


Anonymous said...

is he going to start against the rams because they are one of the worst teams this year?


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