Coach, GM say no rift exists

Rumors are flying regarding the relationship of 49ers coach Dennis Erickson and general manager Terry Donahue, but both men say no rift has developed between them and they continue to work together to turn around San Francisco's sinking fortunes.

Steve Young, former 49ers quarterback and current ESPN studio analyst, said he believes Erickson will be fired at the end of the season. The most likely scenario for Erickson not returning next season is in the likely event that owner John York and Donahue want Erickson to fire some of his assistant coaches. Erickson has contractual control over his coaching staff, but that could lead to a parting of ways.

Erickson denied that there is a rift between him and Donahue, saying that the two men communicate regularly. Donahue also denied there is a rift and that he would not fire Erickson at the end of the season.

"You get to the point where we're 1-11 and there are going to be lot of rumors out there," Erickson said. "That's the nature of the game. This isn't my first barbecue. I've been around this type of thing a lot of times and there is going to be speculation on whether I'm going to be hired or fired or whatever the case may be, and that is fine. I will say there is no rift. We're all working hard to turn this around. All of us will be evaluated. That's the nature of the business."

When Donahue faced the straightforward question of whether he was going to fire Erickson after the season ends in four weeks, Donahue responded, "Absolutely not."

"We get along fine," Donahue said. "We're fighting our guts out trying to get a win. The reality of it is this kind of situation is difficult for everyone. It's not an ideal time to be a general manager or head coach of the San Francisco 49ers because of the difficulty that we're in."

NOTES AND QUOTES

Quarterback Tim Rattay might be heading back to the sideline with another in a series of injuries since he became the 49ers starter in the offseason.

Rattay has a partially torn plantar fascia, the tight band of muscle beneath the arch in his right foot. He is questionable for Sunday's game against the Cardinals, which means backup Ken Dorsey might get his fourth start of the season.

When asked if he believes he can play, Rattay seemed less than completely optimistic.

"It's possible," he said. "It depends on if they can stabilize it."

Since taking over as the starter for Jeff Garcia, who was released in the offseason, Rattay has incurred one injury after another. Rattay sustained a torn groin tendon that required surgery, forcing him to miss three months of the team's offseason program.

When he returned from that condition, Rattay missed three weeks in training camp with a muscle strain in his right forearm. He played in the season opener but sustained a dislocated throwing shoulder and missed the next two games.

Rattay missed another game with a recurrence of his forearm strain.

Erickson said he does not believe that Rattay is out for the final four games of the season. In fact, he said he would not be surprised if he were able to play this week.

If Dorsey plays, Erickson said he expects him to perform better than he did earlier this season. Dorsey was limited by a groin strain and a sore thumb that affected his passing, Erickson said.

"I really believe in the starts that he had he was playing hurt a lot of the time," Erickson said. "The velocity that he has on the ball and what he has been doing in practice since Tim has been back as the starter is much better than it was, for example, in the Chicago game. The thumb affected him in the Chicago game. He won't admit it, but it did. Again, it's a continued evaluation with him. Yeah, he had a groin problem and he's had some different things, so we'll just continue to evaluate and see where he's at."

--- RB Kevan Barlow, who sustained a concussion on a Robert Thomas tackle, said he wasn't impressed with the hit even though he was listed as questionable for this week's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I don't want Robert Thomas to think he got me," Barlow said. "It was a good hit. If he had an opportunity to hit me like that, he should have knocked me out. He's soft. He should've knocked me out, but he didn't. He's soft."

Barlow gained just 48 yards on 19 carries on Sunday against the Rams, who entered the game allowing 5.1 yards rushing to the opposition.

--- The 49ers did not appear to be in any great hurry even after falling 10 points behind with 6:44 remaining in the game. The team did not go to the hurry-up offense, typically letting 25 seconds or more tick off the 40-second play clock before running their play.

"When you're throwing it every down, obviously we weren't protecting it very well," Erickson said. "I felt our best chance to move the ball down the field was to keep doing what we were doing."

Rattay was sacked four times for minus 24 yards. Niners quarterbacks have been sacked 46 times this season, the third-most for a season in franchise history. The 49ers were sacked 53 times in 1998 and 47 times in 1988.

--- LT Kwame Harris played well in his return to the starting lineup. Harris held up well in pass protection, and his run blocking also appeared solid.

"It's hard to assess yourself after a loss," Harris said. "You can't say everything was totally positive."

Harris, starting in his first game since Week 2, probably had his best game of the season against the Rams, Erickson said.

--- DT Bryant Young had an interesting perspective on all this losing. He said these travails could help toughen up the 49ers for future seasons. "I think over time when they (his young teammates) look back on it, they will appreciate it and understand how it felt to go through something like this," Young said.

--- DE John Engelberger aggravated a right wrist sprain, but he is expected to play. Playing with the injury, Engelberger recorded two sacks against the Rams.


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