SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Troy Smith was a busy man Friday, running off to do a few rounds of TV interviews after practice. He barely stopped at his locker.
And to think, just a few weeks ago he was the San Francisco 49ers' No. 3 quarterback.
Smith is now the starter, a move that was anticipated all week but didn't become official until coach Mike Singletary declared that Alex Smith was out of Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams because of a sprained left shoulder.
That means Troy Smith will get his second consecutive start for the 49ers – and, perhaps more important to his future, a chance to prove he should keep the job. Smith was signed on Sept. 6 after being released by the Baltimore Ravens during roster cuts.
Singletary said that David Carr would be the team's backup quarterback. There will be no No. 3 emergency QB.
In his first start Oct. 31 against the Denver Broncos, Troy Smith was 12 of 19 passing for 196 yards and no touchdowns. He had no turnovers.
"He has good leadership (skills)," said tight end Vernon Davis. "He's learning. He's trying to find himself in this offense because he just got here. He's still learning to bond with a lot of the guys and get on the same page. But he's come a long way and he's continuing to make progress."
Alex Smith took part in 7-on-7 drills Thursday and Friday but said he still hasn't been cleared to play. More than anything, the team is taking a cautionary route with his recovery.
"The throwing is unrelated to (the left shoulder)," he said. "Obviously, they wanted me to go out there and see how it felt. Really, the thinking still is taking a hit. I got to do some individual work and I did some 7 on 7, but I'm not even cleared to do some team reps out there, and when I'm in pads they don't want me to get bumped into."
Sunday's game is critical to the 49ers' hopes of becoming factors in the NFC West. At 2-6, they're still just two games behind the Rams and Seattle Seahawks, both 4-4. Their next loss would essentially mean the end of their season.
"It'll be fun to start off with a losing record and then win all of a sudden," Davis said. "But it all starts out there. We have to go out there and let everybody know."