SANTA CLARA, Calif. – He won't say it yet, but San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary is going to name Troy Smith his starting quarterback Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. It's just not official.
Singletary seemed to indicate that Alex Smith, who has a separated left shoulder and has not been medically cleared to play, would regain his job if he were healthy. But Troy Smith got all the snaps in practice Wednesday, and Singletary apparently wants to take a cautious route with Alex.
"As of right now, it looks like it's going to be Troy," Singletary said. "Something could change. It just depends on how Alex progresses through the week."
Responding to a question about Alex Smith, Singletary said: "If Alex were healthy? I think right now he would still be the quarterback."
But the 49ers are moving forward this week with Troy Smith, who performed capably in a 24-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Oct. 31. And as long as he's the one getting the practice snaps, he's the likely starter.
"The thing for me as the coach is, I've got to go with the guy who's going to take the snaps," Singletary said. "But I never want to rule out anything. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a trainer. I always go to those guys for that information."
Alex Smith said there's not much information available. He hasn't seen a doctor since Monday and has only done limited throwing.
"The issue is really whether or not you're going to go out and do it again," he said, "whether or not you can sustain a hit. I'll go out today and push it a little more as far as throwing and running around, but it really comes down to if the doctors think you can go out and take hits.
"As far as functioning goes, I think I could go out and run around and throw. Part of the function is to put the shoulder pads on and be able to sustain hits."
Troy Smith said he hadn't been told officially that he's starting, but he was faxed parts of the game plan last week during the bye week and said he knows the importance and value of getting practice reps.
"To me, that makes all the sense in the world," he said, "preparing yourself, putting yourself into an actual game-like situation whenever you get a chance to take a snap and taking advantage of the snaps you do get. They're very precious throughout a game week, so you have to make sure you cross every T and dot every I. We're preparing that way."
Of couse, all of this may simply be a matter of Singletary wanting to keep the Rams in the dark by forcing them to prepare for two quarterbacks. But there's little doubt who it will be.
And the fact is, Singletary doesn't want to get into a debate about what he'll do if Alex Smith somehow recovers well enough to play.
"Let's say this -- I don't want to get into if he did this, if he did that," he said. "Alex got hurt, Troy's the quarterback, that's where we're going."