Niners want Rattay to play with the big boys

Tim Rattay could see playing time with the first-unit offense as soon as Saturday's exhibition game against Kansas City, and the 49ers are considering starting their backup quarterback at least once in their remaining four preseason games to hasten Rattay's development and see how he performs with and against front-line players.

Coach Steve Mariucci said the team was pleased with Rattay's performance in Saturday's American Bowl loss to the Washington Redskins. The third-year QB - who played until the end of the third quarter after taking over for starter Jeff Garcia after the Niners' first two offensive series - completed 9 of 13 passes for 80 yards and also rushed twice for 26 yards, including a 22-yard scamper that set up the team's lone touchdown in a 38-7 loss.

Rattay also was sacked four times, perhaps a result of the young and inexperienced teammates he was playing with. Rattay likely will be playing with those second- and third-unit players during the bulk of the preseason, when he will take more snaps than any other Niners' quarterback as the team closely evaluates his progress.

But the Niners also want to see him playing with the big boys.

"What we need to accomplish with Tim is he needs to keep going back in that pocket 20 times a game," Mariucci said Wednesday. "He needs to play with our starters a little bit of time, and then we consider starting him one game. It's a possibility. It will do him some good."

The Niners still can't be certain Rattay is ready to step in and perform capably in a real game. Against Washington, he exhibited some of the inconsistency that plagued him last preseason, though at times he also looked like a sharper and more seasoned player. The Niners hope to see more of the latter as the preseason progresses.

"We're getting him ready, we're working through that right now, and he's getting better and better every time he takes the field," Mariucci said. "If we can get him 15 to 20 pass plays called per game - through five preseason games - you're talking about maybe 100 times in the pocket (during the preseason). That is really good for him."

And it should be enough for the Niners to tell if they can count on Rattay as their backup in 2002.

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