No plan in place yet for Smith

Alex Smith threw more passes and for a little longer period Thursday than the day before, but that was the only change in the uncertain status of the 49ers' third-year quarterback. Smith will be examined and re-evaluated after he throws again Friday, but the team has no firm plan in place for Smith's next course of action and appears in no particular hurry to decide upon one.

Thursday's miniscule babystep in Smith's progress makes it rather clear there is no sense of urgency in getting him back on the field in 2007 – or even coming to a timely determination of what he should do to get his injured throwing wing healthy again.

Instead, Smith made it sound like the latter matter is something he and the team's medical staff will get around to sometime in the next couple of days when they are good and ready to make that happen.

"Right now, we're just trying to get the shoulder right, get my arm right and then from there make that decision," Smith said Thursday. "We picked it up a little bit today and I'll throw a little bit tomorrow and then continue to talk with doctors and devise a plan."

In light rain Thursday, Smith took part in some "moderate" throwing early in practice during individual sessions and also threw some short routes to running backs. He didn't attempt any throws down the field and was held out once the 49ers went to group and team drills.

Smith suffered a Grade 3 separation of his right shoulder Sept. 30 against the Seattle Seahawks and then developed a problem with his right forearm after returning to action in late October.

After conferring with orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews in mid-November, Smith and the 49ers decided it was best to give his throwing appendage a rest. Smith hadn't thrown a football since Nov. 18 before he made a handful of light throws at the beginning of practice Wednesday.

After Smith experienced constant pain following his return in October, which adversely affected his play in three consecutive poor performances in losses to New Orleans, Atlanta and Seattle, the 49ers aren't about to rush him onto the field with four games remaining in the season.

It now appears Smith might not play again this year, and surgery is a consideration if his shoulder has not sufficiently healed. The waiting game and holding pattern will continue for at least another day before Smith is examined and reevaluated.

Smith's injuries were reassessed at the beginning of this week with team doctors giving him the green light to begin throwing gradually to test his arm and shoulder.

"They're just going to start him slow and then progressively feel him out every day and see how he's doing and see where it goes from there," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said.

In other words, slow as it goes will prevail.

Backup Trent Dilfer will make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback for the 49ers on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Dilfer has started five games in place of Smith this season. He also played all but three plays of the Week 4 loss to Seattle after Smith was injured on the opening series of that game.

Though Smith says he still would like to play this season, the 49ers seem more inclined to go with Dilfer the rest of the year as the days pass and Smith makes no substantial progress toward getting back on the field.


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