Niners will make starting decisions today

This is the day of decision for Mike Nolan. During evening meetings, he will tell his players – his quarterbacks, most notably – who will be in the starting lineup for Saturday's exhibition opener against the Oakland Raiders. But Nolan reserves the right to keep everybody guessing right up to that moment.

When asked tactfully after Monday's morning practice whether it's not certain rookie Alex Smith would start, even though he has been practicing as the first-team quarterback since the first snap of training camp, Nolan responded:

"We're getting ready for a game now, which we weren't last week. We just want to evaluate and look at it. It could be like it is, but I want to keep myself open right now. I have got another day (of practice) to see what I want to do. There's a good chance it will stay like it was for this game. But if you write it, you might be wrong. I know you (writers) don't want to be wrong."

Nolan and his crew were encouraged that the 49ers saw the return to practice of receivers Rashaun Woods (groin) and P.J. Fleck (back) and running back Frank Gore, who just a few days ago Nolan said would miss more than a week with a chipped bone in the back of his shoulder. All three are players the team wants to get an extensive look at during the preseason.

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) did not return and "will continue to be out a little while," Nolan said. The only notable injury from Saturday's scrimmage was left guard Justin Smiley, who was kicked in the calf and was held out of practice Monday. Smiley has some sort of contusion and had a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam on Monday afternoon as a precaution to make sure everything is OK in the leg.


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