Niners notebook

When the 49ers took Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 NFL draft, the club spoke of his playmaking abilities. But during the exhibition season and his starts during the regular season, Smith has shown few of the flashes that the 49ers expected from a player who is guaranteed $24 million on his first contract.

Last Sunday, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who attended the 49ers' game at Monster Park, called Smith a "system quarterback" who does not have the ability to create plays on his own.

Niners coach Mike Nolan said he did not disagree with Young's assessment, but added that he expects Smith to emerge into a playmaker once he gets a good grasp of the offensive system. Urban Meyer, Smith's coach at Utah, made a similar observation after the 49ers drafted Smith.

Meyer said Smith was "non-functional" until he learned everything in the offense. Nolan echoed Meyer's remarks this week.

"I think Alex is an intellectual guy, and until he gets it all and it is meaningful to him, some of it might be mechanical early," Nolan said. "As he goes forward, he loses all of that. Once he's got it, he can use his legs and the whole Alex Smith to make plays. He's not like Cody (Pickett) and can go out and use everything he's got from the beginning and let it fly."

--- Rookie lineman Adam Snyder was impressive in his starting debut at left tackle against the Seahawks. Snyder did a good job against veteran defensive end Grant Wistrom.

Nolan said Snyder has earned the right to start at left tackle for the rest of the season. Left tackle has been a trouble spot for the 49ers this season, so why didn't the 49ers make the move sooner?

"Part of it was that we didn't think he was ready to play quite yet," Nolan said.

Snyder played the guard positions from the first day of training camp after second-round pick David Baas missed a month with a torn hamstring.

--- Nolan said he was particularly impressed with the way Snyder carried himself while playing the highest pressure spot on the offensive line.

"He wasn't fazed by too much," Nolan said. "There's a mind-set that goes with left tackle that's a little bit like playing cornerback in the NFL. You can't let things bother you if something goes awry. He played with a lot of confidence and he's a big, strong man that has very good feet."

--- Third-string running back Maurice Hicks got his first playing time on offense last week and responded with 83 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries against the Seahawks. He figures to have another increased role this week with backup Frank Gore down with a strained hip flexor.

That is not good news for Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who said he was impressed with what he saw from Hicks in the exhibition season. Hicks had 92 yards on 13 carries against the Titans in August.

"I personally stood by the printer and waited for the waiver wire for 10 days to see what was going to happen out there," Fisher said. "I thought (the 49ers) were loaded and didn't think they could keep him. I would have loved to have had an opportunity to claim him because I was just very, very impressed with what he does."

--- Return man Rasheed Marshall has committed turnovers in back-to-back games after the club went all of 2004 without a turnover on special teams.

"We've already had two the last two weeks, and we need to do a better job of that," Nolan said.

--- Finally, the 49ers face an opponent their own size.

The 49ers take their 2-8 mark to face the Titans, who also have just two victories in their 10 games. This is an opportunity for the 49ers to perhaps pick up a victory on the road.

"Well, it's important to get on the winning track, no matter who we're playing," Nolan said. "We need to make that step that does allow us to win that football game by learning from this week."

--- In his first two seasons in the league, it was not uncommon to hear club employees refer to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd as "Mini T.O."

Lloyd may not be in the same class of receiver as Terrell Owens, but he can certain supply some amazing one-handed catches. And he has the potential to cause some other T.O.-type problems.

Nolan said he spoke with Lloyd twice last week to deliver the message that no individual is going to be bigger than the team. Lloyd appeared to hear footsteps on two passes that he shied away from against the Bears, including one at the goal line. Afterward, Lloyd blamed it on Cody Pickett throwing the ball too soon.

Lloyd bounced back with seven catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers' 27-25 loss to the Seahawks.

"It was good to see," Nolan said. "Brandon always practices well and practices hard. He puts in his time. But there is not going to be any individual bigger than the team. And so what you say, when you say it, where you say it affects the football team. And those were some of the things we talked about last week. And so we put that behind us."

Lloyd, who has been contentious in his dealings with the media, declined to address his meetings with Nolan.

"What me and coach Nolan talk about is between us, but I'll be happy to talk to you about (the game against the Seahawks) or the (upcoming) Tennessee game," Lloyd said.

--- Defensive end Bryant Young, who is expected to miss three to six weeks with a knee injury, received quite a lift from the home fans after he went down with the injury. Young said he became quite emotional when he heard the outpouring of emotion from the crowd on Sunday.

"It was really humbling to experience that," Young said. "I'm really grateful for the fans we have and the years I've been here. I couldn't believe that. It's like, 'Wow, that's for me?' It was good to hear that when you have the crowd behind you."

--- Kicker Joe Nedney has rebounded with a fantastic year, making 18 of 20 field-goal attempts after missing two consecutive seasons with leg injuries. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $665,000 contract in March, and now they'd like to sign him to a long-term deal.

"I don't need Thanksgiving to be thankful," Nedney said. "I feel thankful every day. You realize how much you love the game and miss it when you're away for two years."

--- Nolan was with the Ravens last year when it looked as if Terrell Owens would be joining the team after a trade with the 49ers. But Owens filed a grievance to force a trade to the Eagles. Nolan said he was shocked that Owens got his way a year ago.

"I felt like, 'Who's calling the shots on this?'" Nolan said. "So when this thing started again with T.O. a second time, I was thinking, 'I'm not going to be surprised either way because last time I was surprised that he got anything his way.'"

Nolan said he was pleased that Owens lost his grievance this time, allowing the Eagles to suspend him for four games, then deactivate him for the remainder of the season.

"I kind of like that news," Nolan said. "I know T.O. doesn't, but I kind of like the news."

--- The potential season-ending injury to Young leaves the 49ers with a couple of gaping holes. One of those holes is in the way of leadership, as Young is considered the most respected person in the entire 49ers organization.

The other void is on the field, where Young was experiencing a rebirth of sorts in his 12th NFL season. Young was among the league leaders with eight sacks when he sustained a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of action for three to six weeks.

To compensate for the loss of Young, the 49ers plan to move nose tackle Anthony Adams to left defensive end. Second-year player Isaac Sopoaga will get his first NFL start at nose tackle.

Rookie nose tackle Ronald Fields, who was inactive for the first nine games of the season, will see his most extensive playing time of the season. He played 13 snaps on Sunday against the Seahawks in his debut.

--- TE Terry Jones might get significantly more playing time this season in just his second week with the squad. Jones started for the 49ers just five days after the Ravens released him. Jones caught one pass for 19 yards, the longest reception by a 49ers tight end this season.

--- LB Derek Smith is just 12 tackles shy of reaching the 100-tackle mark for the ninth consecutive season. Smith has 88 stops. He has also earned a lot of respect from assistant head coach/linebackers Mike Singletary, who recently complimented Smith on how much he has improved in the team's new 3-4 system.

--- P Andy Lee is having a solid season, as his net average is a full yard over the team's goal. Lee is averaging 42.5 yards a punt with a net average of an impressive 38.0.

--- RB Maurice Hicks likely will serve as Kevan Barlow's backup on Sunday because of Frank Gore's hip injury. Hicks has carried just 11 times, all of which came last week after Gore and Barlow were injured. He accounted for 83 rushing yards and a touchdown.


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