More than a cameo for Cody?

Cody Pickett was thrown to a hungry pack of Buffalo Bills defenders Sunday, and the 49ers saw both some good things and predictably bad things from their rookie quarterback in his NFL debut. They hope not to see him in a game again until 2005, but that could change depending on what develops in practice this week before Sunday's season finale at New England. "We just have to wait and see what happens," coach Dennis Erickson said Monday.

What happened Sunday during a 41-7 loss to the Bills was something Erickson was hoping wouldn't take place this season: Pickett taking snaps behind center. But with regular Tim Rattay out, Pickett was elevated to backup status three weeks ago, and his time finally came a year earlier than expected when Ken Dorsey was forced out of the game in the third quarter after lacerating a finger on his throwing hand.

"Putting him out there yesterday was hard," Erickson said. "But I thought he reacted very well. He made some plays. He made some mistakes, too."

The numbers Pickett had to show for his first NFL action were more reflective of his mistakes. He finished with a quarterback rating of just 18.8 after completing 4 of 10 passes for 55 yards while throwing two interceptions and being sacked twice.

But he also led San Francisco to its only touchdown late in the game, an efficient 14-play, 73-yard march during which Pickett's 18-yard laser to Cedrick Wilson near the sideline on fourth-and-17 was the key play that kept the drive alive.

When asked if he saw some good things from Pickett on Sunday despite the obvious bad things, Erickson responded, "I did and I have."

"He's very athletic," Erickson continued. "He can get out of trouble. He has a strong arm. He just hasn't played in the football aspect of it. It's simply going to take some time with him. He does have some talent. I think we all could see that yesterday. As he learns the game and times goes on, I believe he has a chance to play in this league."

But Erickson remains hesitant to give Pickett another chance Sunday on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. If things go according to the plan Erickson mapped out Monday, Dorsey would take every snap in that game.

But then, as Erickson says about a lot of situations, things can always change.

"Ken's the starter, but we'll look and see how things go," Erickson said. "(Dorsey) should be OK. We just have to monitor and see how he is during the week, see how he throws it."

One thing was certain Sunday: Pickett can throw it. He has the best arm of any quarterback on the San Francisco roster, and that was obvious on several passes he hummed to receivers, including one of his interceptions that was tipped in the air before being picked.

And, if anything, Pickett hardly seem rattled by his first NFL encounter.

"It was a great learning experience for me," he said. "It was good for me to get some snaps. I was excited, but I wasn't nervous. It was positive energy and I felt confident. There were some things I missed, and there were some (passes) I wish I would have had back. Live and learn."

Pickett has been getting extensive time as Dorsey's backup in practice since Rattay suffered a season-ending foot injury in the Dec. 5 loss at St. Louis. Since the Niners might be looking at drafting a quarterback with a high pick next April, it ostensibly would behoove the team to get a more extensive look at Pickett in the season finale, since it already has seen plenty of Dorsey so far in 2004.

But that is not what Erickson and the coaching staff is thinking. Dorsey received an entire season last year as a rookie to watch and learn behind Rattay and Jeff Garcia before being sent into regular-season battle this season with a year of development in the system already under his belt.

The Niners want that for Pickett, too. The only reason he played against the Bills is because he was San Francisco's best healthy option at quarterback (Brandon Doman was San Francisco's emergency No. 3 for the Buffalo game).

"As you look at (Pickett), I'm glad he got the opportunity to play so we could take a look at him," Erickson said. "He might throw and get some turns this week in practice. But I would like (Pickett to sit and watch for a full year before playing) and I would also like (him) to play a couple of years in preseason so (he) can get a feel of the game a little bit. We weren't planning on playing him until Ken got hurt. That is where we are right now. I'm not planning on playing him (this week), no."

Just the same, Pickett will stay ready.

"It felt good when I got out there and got a chance to get going," he said. "You never know when you're opportunity is going to be, and you have to be ready. You're two snaps away, you're one snap away, (then) you're playing. You never know. You have to try and stay mentally ready as best as you can and then do well when your opportunity comes."

And if it comes again this week?

"We'll see," Pickett said. "I'm going to try to look at film and do well in practice. Ken's our guy. But if I'm called on, I'll try to come out there and do the best I can."

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