Lincoln's career over; Carmazzi's days numbered?

It wasn't long ago that Gio Carmazzi was considered the 49ers' quarterback of the future and Alex Lincoln appeared to be a seventh-round draft steal who would contribute immediately on special teams and add valuable depth at linebacker. Now Lincoln's career is over, and time is running out on Carmazzi's hopes of ever playing for the team.

When the 49ers conducted a three-day minicamp for rookies and selected veterans this week, Carmazzi - the Niners' third-round draft choice in 2000 - still wasn't ready participate. And Lincoln - a seventh-round choice last year - was nowhere to be seen.

Lincoln missed last season after doctors determined fibers surrounding the disks in his back were torn loose, a condition that caused pain, numbness and tingling in his pelvic region and right arm. He was expected to heal in the offseason without surgery, but Lincoln experienced the same problem during April workouts with the team and failed a physical before the full-squad minicamp at the end of last month and was sent home.

"At this point, he doesn't appear to be healthy enough to participate in football drills," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "He came in (during the April minicamp) and was unable to do it."

Niners general manager Terry Donahue confirmed that Lincoln will officially leave the team after June 1. Donahue wasn't sure if Lincoln would retire or if the team would waive him.

"We have to go through the procedure," Donahue said. "But he's told us that he felt like he needed to leave the team and he just didn't think he could play."

Carmazzi still thinks he can play and he wants to play. But physically, he still is unable to let it loose after undergoing surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder last August, an operation that wiped out his 2001 season.

"Gio is still up in the air," Mariucci said. "It has yet to be determined when he's going to feel good enough to throw and work again at full speed. I think he's getting a little frustrated with his health. He's seeing doctors. He's trying to determine exactly where he is and what he can do between now and whenever it feels good again to throw the ball well. It just seems to be taking a long time. He's doing everything in his power to rehab and get opinions and get well. It's just taking a while."

Perhaps too long, as far as the Niners are concerned. Carmazzi is expected to battle former Arena League star Aaron Garcia and fifth-round draft pick Brandon Doman for the No. 3 QB role behind starter Jeff Garcia and backup Tim Rattay. At the April minicamp, Mariucci indicated the Niners might take only four quarterbacks to training camp so there would be enough snaps to seriously evaluate the competition for No. 3.

Mariucci also said then that he thought Carmazzi might be ready for this week's minicamp. Now, it appears Carmazzi won't be ready for next week's passing minicamp, nor the final full-squad minicamp of the spring on June 3-6. If Carmazzi is unable to participate then, it appears the team will move on without him as it plans for training camp, which begins July 20 in Stockton.

Carmazzi was seen throwing passes on the side at this week's camp, but there is no immediate timetable for his return to practice, and he is rapidly losing ground to Doman and Aaron Garcia. This minicamp - in which Jeff Garcia did not participate - was going to be an opportunity for Carmazzi to get plenty of snaps.

"It looked like he was throwing well," Mariucci said, "but not for long. It's just going to be a matter of him getting back to full strength physically and competing. Mentally, he's up with everything, definitely ahead of the other guys. He just hasn't been able to show what he can do."

And it's beginning to appear he might not get that chance.

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