Youth movement will wait

With their playoff hopes all but mathematically extinguished, it might behoove the 49ers to take a longer look at some of their younger players the final month of the season with an eye on next year. But GM Terry Donahue said there won't be a youth movement mandated by management in the final quarter of this disappointing season. "We want to win," Donahue said. "We're not looking to next year. We're not going to write off the next four weeks and start taking a look at younger-type players."

Although some of those younger-type players may indeed start seeing more playing time in the Niners' final four games, Donahue said that would happen as a normal progression in their development. The team's focus, the GM said, still is to turn a 5-7 record into a winning season, beginning with Sunday's home game against the Arizona Cardinals.

"We're going to try to win Sunday," Donahue said, "and then we're going to try to win the next week and the next week and the next week. I don't question for a minute that our team is going to compete. I would expect we'll go all the way through the (Dec.) 27th, and beyond if we get that chance."

The Niners are highly unlikely to get that chance. Even if they win their final four games - an improbable scenario in its own right, considering road games at Cincinnati and Philadelphia are up next after the Cardinals - San Francisco would need a lot of help from others to get into the postseason with a 9-7 record.

A win over Arizona would keep those hopes alive - the Niners are 10-point favorites - but it is likely some of their top younger players will be seeing more action down the stretch regardless of the circumstances.

"If somebody that's a younger-type player, if they get into the game, great," Donahue said. "The coaches are free to play who they think they should play in order to win. We haven't dictated to say, 'You guys ought to play this guy, or let's look at that guy.' We haven't done that at all. And we won't.

"I don't think it has anything to do with other than we want to win. We're not going to stop the race until the race is declared finished. Coaches need to continually bring players along. There's got to be a plan for bringing each player along. I would expect some of the younger players, just through the natural progress of coming along, to be playing more. But not for any reason other than that."

One young player Donahue doesn't expect to see in the final month is rookie quarterback Ken Dorsey, who some observers are anxious to see in action with the team's future at the situation uncertain.

"I don't think we'll have an opportunity to do that," Donahue said. "I'm very high on Ken Dorsey. I think he's an outstanding young prospect for us. But he's a third-string quarterback."

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