Dilfer in; Nolan, Smith must get on same page

Quarterback Alex Smith and 49ers coach Mike Nolan have clearly not been on the same page when it comes to the quarterback's health. After struggling for three games, Smith will not be in the starting lineup Sunday against the St. Louis Rams because of lingering soreness in his right shoulder and forearm. Veteran backup Trent Dilfer will start Sunday's game between the NFC West rivals.

Dilfer played poorly in three games when Smith sat out with a right shoulder separation - his first action with the 49ers since joining the team in 2006.

It is unclear how long Smith will be out of action. Dr. James Andrews was scheduled to examine Smith's MRI later in the week to make a diagnosis.

Nolan has maintained that Smith's health was not a reason for his recent struggles. Since returning from a separated throwing shoulder, Smith has completed just 51 of 109 passes. For the season, his 57.2 passer rating ranks last among all qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL.

When Smith finally admitted this week that his shoulder and forearm have been greatly affecting his play, Nolan appeared upset Smith was blaming his problems on the injury. Nolan maintained that he had no idea Smith was bothered, but Smith believes he conveyed that information in several face-to-face meetings.

"Obviously, what I was saying and what he was hearing might have been different," Smith said. "In the future, I'll be sure to tell him exactly what's going on and be more clear."

In Nolan's first year as coach, he selected Smith with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. In many ways, the fate of the organization rested with how they performed together.

Through 2 1/2 seasons, it is safe to say that neither has performed at a high level.

"I'm going to learn from this and there are things I'm going to take from it," Smith said. "I'm still learning on the field and off the field. We both want to win games and we both want to get this thing going. And it's going to take us coming together, and there's no doubt in my mind that's happening."

Nolan admitted that he made a poor decision not to recognize Smith was struggling with his shoulder and forearm.

--- QB Alex Smith admitted to lingering soreness in his right shoulder and forearm. He sustained a separated throwing shoulder Sept. 30. He returned to action four weeks later and played poorly. His status for the remainder of the season is uncertain.
--- QB Trent Dilfer will get his third start of the season Sunday against the Rams. Dilfer has struggled in his limited action this season. Dilfer has completed 47 of 90 passes for 463 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer rating is 55.0.
--- RB Frank Gore went through limited practice Thursday due to a right ankle sprain, but the club expects him to be ready to play Sunday against the Rams. Gore rushed for 72 yards on 13 carries on Monday against the Seahawks after missing one game with the injury.
--- WR Ashley Lelie will not play Sunday due to a right quadriceps strain. It's an injury that bothered Lelie throughout the team's offseason workouts. Lelie has not made much of an impact this season. He has just seven catches for 90 yards.
--- S Mark Roman, who is sixth on the team with 45 tackles, went through limited practice Thursday but is expected to be back in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Rams.

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