Erickson stands by his quarterback

A four-interception, five-turnover game wasn't enough for Dennis Erickson to back away from Tim Rattay as his starting quarterback - for now and in the future - and both the player and coach downplayed comments made by 49ers general manager Terry Donahue about the severity of Rattay's forearm injury.

Rattay had the worst game of his NFL career Sunday, and his untimely mistakes played a major factor in San Francisco's come-from-ahead 37-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers, a game the 49ers led 17-0 late in the first half.

It wasn't the first time that has happened this year. Fourth-quarter interceptions thrown by Rattay also contributed greatly to the 49ers' demise in losses to Atlanta, Seattle and the New York Jets. But Rattay played well in each of those games before his late gaffes, and Sunday's effort - when Rattay committed turnovers on San Francisco's final three possessions - was the first time his play added legitimate fuel to the argument he might not be the team's long-term solution at quarterback.

Rattay's fragility in a sport that demands durability - he already has had significant injuries to his groin, throwing shoulder and throwing arm so far in 2004 - already were a solid basis for that argument.

In response to a question regarding taking a look this season at rookie quarterback Cody Pickett, Erickson defended his fifth-year veteran starter.

"Tim Rattay is our quarterback and will be our quarterback next year," Erickson said. "There would be no reason for (playing Pickett) that I could see, unless it was an injury situation. There is really no reason for that."

When pressed about Rattay being the team's starting quarterback in 2005, Erickson said, "Tim? Planning on it. Unless something happens."

On a Monday morning radio show, Donahue suggested part of Rattay's problem recently has been that he has two torn tendons in his right forearm that have reduced the velocity with which he throws the ball.

But Rattay did not take the opportunity to use that as an excuse for his play Sunday. He has had problems with his arm since training camp.

"I strained some muscles in my forearm," Rattay said. "They are basically healed. I feel good. My strength is maybe not all the way there but it is real close. There are no throws I can't make because of my forearm."

Erickson said, "It's not any different than it has been. The tendons are the same ones that he has had. As I've explained before, they're like pulled hamstring muscles. They are pretty much healed right now. Is he 100 percent? No. Is his velocity as good as it was when he didn't have them? Probably not, but he's playing. It bothers him a little bit, but it doesn't affect him that much."

Rattay's interceptions Sunday appeared to be more the result of poor decisions than a sore arm, and the quarterback acknowledged as much. Erickson indicated some of Rattay's mistakes were do to his inexperience, since he has made just nine NFL starts and played sparingly or not at all in his first four seasons.

"We have to understand he hasn't played a lot of games," Erickson said. "It's not like he's a 15-year veteran that is playing or a 10-year veteran or a guy who has played a lot. I've got a great deal of confidence in Tim Rattay.

"The thing Tim Rattay does extremely well is make decisions, throw at the right place. He didn't do that at times (Sunday) and to me, that was the biggest thing. When he plays well, he makes good decisions. He didn't play well (Sunday). Do I think it is a concern that is going to happen all of the time and the rest of the season? No, I don't. There is nobody that knows what they did wrong more than Tim Rattay right now. He'll make the adjustment, I really believe that."

Rattay appreciated the show of support, but remains chagrined by his meltdown against the Panthers.

"There's no excuse," he said. "You can't say it's only my (ninth) start. But I've got to learn from it."

He'll obviously get the chance the rest of this season - and beyond.

"I believe he'll come out and play well next Sunday (at Tampa Bay)," Erickson said.

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