Will Rattay play?

Will Tim Rattay pick up where he left off with his fine play before the 49ers' bye week? The more pertinent question now, with Rattay experiencing nagging problems with his throwing forearm, is whether he will even play at all Sunday night against the Chicago Bears.

He might not.

What appeared to be only a minor nuisance last Monday with a full week of rest ahead now appears to be nothing minor at all after Rattay missed practice again Thursday and was added to San Francisco's injury list as questionable for Sunday's game.

Worse yet, Rattay continues to show little improvement from the injury that surfaced a few days before the Oct. 17 game against the New York Jets, even though he has been held out of practice drills this week and has attempted to throw only on a minimal basis. Rattay didn't throw at all Thursday after pain persisted following the few tosses he took during warm-up drills Wednesday.

It left Niners coach Dennis Erickson sounding considerably less optimistic that Rattay will play against the Bears than he appeared earlier in the week, when there didn't seem to be any doubt that Rattay would be able to start.

There's doubt now.

"Yeah, because it bothered him today," Erickson said. "It's sore. He's got a chance to play, but it's a day-by-day evaluation. We just have to wait and see how it is tomorrow, Saturday, and see how it is on game day. If he can play, he'll play. If not, then we go with Ken (Dorsey)."

And so goes the latest installment of Can Tim Play. The CTP show has been the team's longest-running series throughout 2004, dating back to May when Rattay suffered a torn groin that required surgery during San Francisco's very first spring minicamp practice.

That was only the beginning of Rattay's injury woes. He missed almost three weeks of training camp practices with a similar injury to his right forearm that he says is unrelated to his current condition. After making it back from that injury to start the Sept. 12 season opener, he suffered a separated throwing shoulder in the first half of that game and didn't play the next two weeks.

In stepped backup Dorsey, who had mixed results against the Saints and Seahawks. Rattay returned in Week 4 against St. Louis and immediately began lending stability and success to both the quarterback position and San Francisco's offense.

In the ensuing three-week span that led to the team's bye week, Rattay averaged 334 yards passing, 29 completions and a quarterback rating of 94.9. He began experiencing pain and swelling close to his right wrist and thumb a few days before playing the Jets. Rattay started that game and completed 18 of 28 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns in a 22-14 loss.

He emerged from the bye week as the NFC's fifth-ranked passer with a rating of 92.5, and talked Wednesday of building on that performance now that he and other offensive starters finally have had a chance to settle in.

"I'm just going to focus on trying to get wins," Rattay said. "That's what we've got to do offensively – focus on winning and keep moving the ball. It's the same things as always for me – protect the ball, not try to force too many things and take what the defense gives us. I'm just going to keep trying to do those things."

Rattay sounded then like his absence from practice only was precautionary to nurse his forearm.

"It's something I have to figure out day to day and keep treating it, and hopefully I can get it under control and not have it be lingering," he said. "The week off was good for it and I did rest and got a little better. It's something I have to keep treating and hopefully I can get out there and practice more (later in the week). I just didn't want to go out there (Wednesday) and throw a bunch of balls and wake up (Thursday) with it throbbing again."

Rattay wasn't around after practice Thursday to talk about how bad the pain is, but Erickson made it sound like it's bad enough to keep his status in doubt until the opening kickoff against the Bears.

"It's better than it was during the Jets game," Erickson said. "To me, it's whether he can perform or not. Is he going to be 100 percent? Are (we) going to be in as good a situation as we would be if we played Ken Dorsey? That's a decision we are going to have to make. Whatever gives us the best chance to win as a football team."

But other factors also are coming into play. Erickson said team doctors are trying to determine if Rattay could cause further damage to his forearm by playing, or if doing so would hamper his recovery. The Niners appear less inclined to play Rattay this week if it's only going to exacerbate his situation.

"If (doctors) feel it could be harmful for him, then obviously we're not going to play him," Erickson said. "If there's a chance Tim would hurt it more, then obviously we have to take that into consideration. He's tough and he's going to play if he can. It's a matter of how he feels throwing the ball. I've got a great deal of confidence in (Dorsey). If he gives us the best chance to win, then we'll make that decision, and then he'll be the quarterback."

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