Can Dorsey do it?

Tim Rattay underwent surgery to repair his torn groin Tuesday, and the 49ers will spend the aftermath of that operation selecting one of these two options: Bringing in a veteran quarterback to learn the ropes, or sticking with Ken Dorsey as the first-team quarterback through the thick and thin of Rattay's recovery. Dorsey is prepared for either alternative, and is handling his sudden weekend ascension to the top of the depth chart with a calm and collected assurance.

Dorsey wasn't about to state any great claims of what he could make of the opportunity presented by Rattay's misfortune, but a clear glimmer of confidence could be seen behind his stoic demeanor after assuming - at least temporarily - the mantle of San Francisco's top QB.

"My outlook on the whole deal hasn't changed," Dorsey said. "I still have to go out and do my same thing that I have been doing since the first day. Number one or number two, my approach really hasn't changed. I mean, things change, but what I have to do is just keep working hard."

Dorsey got to spend less than two hours in his new role as the team's No. 2 quarterback. That's how long it took for Rattay to sustain a freak injury in the team's very first spring minicamp practice during which a muscle in Rattay's left upper groin area tore completely from the bone.

Dorsey still is a long way from becoming the 49ers' starting quarterback on opening day in September, but if things fall right for him in the next few months, and he displays that he can handle the job during an auditionary role, so far quickly could turn into so close.

"My outlook on it is that I have to do what I have to do, in case that is the scenario, and put myself in the right position," Dorsey said. "I feel that I can do things on the field to help the team win."

Out of necessity, the Niners are seriously considering bringing in an experienced NFL quarterback, since neither of the three healthy quarterbacks currently on the team's roster has taken a snap in an NFL game. But the team, for several reasons, obviously would rather wait out Rattay's recovery and let Dorsey and those QBs behind him develop in the system.

Dorsey looked much sharper and had a better grasp of the system during the team's recent minicamp. He also was bigger and stronger presence, adding 15 pounds during the offseason to bring the weight on his 6-foot-4 frame to 220 pounds.

"I feel a lot more prepared," Dorsey said. "If I had to be thrown in the number two spot last year, or the spot that I am in right now, I don't think I would have been ready for it. I think I am so much better off from my development last year on and off the field. It has really prepared me well for what's going on right now."

Besides everything he absorbed while watching and learning last year as a rookie, Dorsey's increased strength has made a big difference in his passing.

"Where you feel it the most isn't when you throw a perfect ball," Dorsey said. "It is kind of when it doesn't feel right and it doesn't come out right and it still gets there when it needs to be and where it needs to be. That is kind of when you feel it the most and that is a good feeling."

There is obvious debate among team officials right now whether it would be wise to stick with Dorsey as the No. 1 option during the uncertainty of Rattay's recovery. But the Niners are high on his potential, and he has solid support from the decision-maker who matters most, general manager Terry Donahue.

"We've liked Ken Dorsey since we were able to get him," Donahue said. "I like his field presence, coolness, sense of the game, height, relationship with other team members, how he conducts himself. I just think he has a lot of good things that a lot of good quarterbacks have."

Enough that the Niners don't have to bring in another good veteran quarterback as insurance? That's the million-dollar question - or $700,000 question, considering how much the cash-strapped Niners could realistically offer a veteran QB - the team is asking itself today.

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