Niners preparing for cutdown at QB

Time is running out on one of the five quarterbacks currently fighting for a berth on the 49ers roster. Starter Jeff Garcia isn't the one. Neither is backup Tim Rattay. But one of the other three candidates could be in his final days with the team, with the Niners opting to cut down to four QBs after their upcoming weekend minicamp. "It's a matter of we have to make a decision after this minicamp to get it down to four," coach Dennis Erickson said Wednesday morning. "That's my feeling on it."

And Erickson's feeling carries a lot of weight. The Niners' new coach has been saying since April 27 - the day the 49ers drafted Miami's Ken Dorsey in the seventh round - that five quarterbacks was one too many for the Niners to be carrying on their roster, even for spring minicamps.

The Niners, understandably, are placing a lot of emphasis on the quarterback position and the team's future at that vital role. They brought in Cade McNown, a former No. 1 draft pick, last summer, and they have selected quarterbacks in the late rounds of the draft each of the past two years, even though they have an established 1-2 tandem in Garcia and Rattay.

When Dorsey still was available late in the draft, the Niners didn't feel they could pass on the intriguing prospect. But selecting Dorsey also altered the timetable in the battle to be the team's No. 3 QB, since the Niners realize that having three candidates battling for that one role is one too many, particularly since Garcia and Rattay will get the majority of snaps in minicamps and training camp.

So Erickson said Wednesday that the team is planning to make a decision after the three practice sessions that are scheduled Saturday through Monday.

And it appears McNown could be the odd man out in the equation.

With McNown missing last season after undergoing shoulder sugery, Brandon Doman - the team's fifth-round draft choice in 2002 - established himself as the No. 3 in his rookie season.

McNown now is back competing at full strength, but he has done little to move past Doman during offseason workouts. Then, in the team's full-squad minicamp on May 2-4, McNown looked a little rusty and his arm still didn't appear to be strong as some of his throws fluttered.

"I just have to battle it out and work as hard as I can," McNown said. "You get a little anxious about it. I feel some pressure."

He should. With Dorsey impressing coaches during his first practice sessions with the team, it appears McNown is the QB most likely to lose a job unless he can rise to the occasion.

"Right now, it kind of stands where it did in minicamp, where Brandon is No. 3 and there's a battle for No. 4," Erickson said.

When asked specifically about McNown and his shoulder problems, Erickson said, "We haven't sat down as a training staff and talked about that completely. We're going to have to do that. We'll really evaluate where that shoulder is. It's close to 100 percent. That's what we've heard all along. Then it got sore at the minicamp. We have to see where it's at."

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