Niners spinning again at QB

Tim Rattay in, Ken Dorsey out. What is it with the 49ers and their rotating injured quarterbacks? Just when it appears Rattay has made legitimate progress with his throwing arm and finally is on the way back – and this time, we really mean it, folks – Dorsey comes down with a back problem that suddenly makes him the most hurting of San Francisco QBs at the current moment. And now, with a game at Minnesota looming in three days, how does Brandon Doman sound as your new 49ers starting quarterback?

It sounds like a definite possibility, coach Dennis Erickson said Tuesday morning after he received the news that a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam revealed two protruding disks in Dorsey's lower back.

That just about rules Dorsey – San Francisco's starting QB in its first two preseason games – out for Friday's exhibition against the Vikings. The team's official line is that Dorsey is "doubtful" for Minnesota, but rest assured that he won't play. Though Rattay again threw around the idea Tuesday that he could play Friday, rest assured the Niners don't want him to play, either – not with there still plenty of uncertainty lingering around the status of his fragile right forearm.

So that leaves the strong possibility that Doman, not exactly anybody's great hope to be the savior of San Francisco's offense in 2004, is the starting quarterback this week.

"He could," Erickson said. "Yeah. Either him or you."

Erickson directed that comment to the smallest (in physical stature) of the beat writers that cover the team. That's how bad it has become for the Niners at the game's most critical position.

Dorsey has had problems before with his lower back, Erickson said, and he has been able to fight through them without incident. That's what's apparently being expected from him this time, and he already was busy rehabbing the problem Tuesday afternoon with the team saying it's "day to day" when he'll be able to return to practice.

But just the basic fact that the Niners have been blindsided again by an unforeseen injury to one of their top quarterbacks kind of makes you wonder if the football gods have it out for the 49ers this year, or if the ghost of Jeff Garcia whisks around in the winds at the team's Santa Clara facility, laughing hauntingly in everyone's face.

The tally is now three injuries to two quarterbacks on that Santa Clara practice field – none of them caused by physical contact. Erickson said Dorsey was hurt throwing an out pattern Monday afternoon in practice and that nobody touched him. Rattay tore a groin muscle completely off the bone while attempting to throw on the run during a May 7 minicamp practice, then suffered swelling in his throwing forearm less than a week into training camp.

As Dorsey was grabbing his back in pain after making a throw Monday, Rattay was stepping back into the unrestricted flow of the passing game for the first time in three weeks. He practiced – and threw – again without pain Tuesday, and he started putting more distance on his throws. But Rattay still is not ready to completely air it out, and he acknowledged it wouldn't be wise to do so in an attempt to accelerate his progress now that Dorsey is down.

"The thing is, I haven't really tried," Rattay said. "Tomorrow, I'm going to hopefully increase it a little bit and do that, and Thursday I think I'll do the same thing. It's kind of a wait-and-see. But I was able to throw with a little more velocity and maybe fit in holes a little bitter today than I did yesterday. But I have to be able to throw a go route if I want to play."

Play? It looks like Doman and rookie Cody Pickett might be the only 49ers quarterbacks playing Friday against the Vikings. With the regular-season opener now exactly 19 days away, that can't be construed as a positive thing.

"The good thing is that it is still preseason," said Rattay, echoing what the company line has been all month regarding his injury. But this time, Rattay was talking about Dorsey, and the chances that he'd be ready to step in and take his place as the starter this week, which – of course – is what Dorsey has been doing for Rattay all spring and summer.

If that revolving status at the QB position kind of makes your head spin, join the crowd.

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