Key players returning; Parrish out

In a perfect 49ers world, center Jeremy Newberry would be snapping the football to quarterback Tim Rattay, who then would be throwing it to rookie receiver Rashaun Woods. For the first time since the start of training camp, that standard transfer could actually take place Monday when all three are expected to return to practice. But it will be a while before anybody sees All-Pro safety Tony Parrish (torn right calf muscle) and backup center Brock Gutierrez (torn knee ligament) practicing again.

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam Sunday revealed the Parrish, who has been bothered recently by his right leg, actually has a tear that probably will keep him out until the start of the regular season.

"He didn't hurt it last night," coach Dennis Erickson said late Sunday afternoon, referring to Saturday's 20-13 preseason loss at Chicago. "He could have re-hurt it. He got kicked in the calf during practice and that bothered him. It may have started last week and he may have re-hurt it during the game. The MRI (indicated) it's a little worse than they thought, so it's going to be a few weeks."

Gutierrez - who has held the role of San Francisco's first-team center most of the spring and summer - was the only other player to surface with a significant injury from Saturday's game. He has a torn medical collateral ligament in his knee, and he will be out anywhere from two to four weeks.

The timing of Gutierrez's injury coincides with the return of Newberry, the two-time Pro Bowler who has been out since the first week of training camp after experiencing pain in his right knee that eventually required arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 10. Newberry has healed quickly from that injury, and Erickson said he actually might see some playing time in Friday's exhibition game against the Vikings in Minnesota.

There's a possibility Rattay could play in that game, too, though Erickson was making no promises and said that Rattay's status remains uncertain at best. But Rattay has been cleared to return to practice drills after a layoff of almost three weeks to rest his inflamed right forearm.

"We've just got to monitor how his forearm feels," Erickson said. "How far he can throw it is totally up to him. And so, we're going to try and work him in and we will deal around that as far as what part of practice he will be involved in."

Rattay threw before Saturday's game and was able to throw 30-yard passes without experiencing any pain. He also threw some at the team facility on Sunday.

Erickson held firm to his resolution that the Niners do not need to see Rattay play in the preseason for him to remain the team's starter for the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against Atlanta.

"No, we don't feel that that's necessary," Erickson said. "He's going to be the starter as long as he's physically ready to play. Is that how we want it? No. We'd like to see him play some (before the regular season), but if that's the case then that's what happens. You'd like to (see him against Minnesota), but we're not going to risk him re-hurting that thing if he's not 100 percent. I'd rather wait and play him against San Diego (in the Sept. 2 exhibition finale)."

Woods, the first-round draft pick who has missed almost all of camp with hamstring problems, also should be ready to go without restrictions on Monday. He has been rehabbing his hamstring on the side with physical development coordinator Jerry Attaway and looked to be running without inhibitions at the end of last week.

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