Niners notebook: Nolan speaks for Yorks

The 49ers have lost 10 of their past 11 games and, after last week's dismal 27-7 loss at home to Minnesota, were officially eliminated from the NFL playoff hunt. Through it all, the team ownership tandem of John York and his wife, Denise DeBartolo York, have mostly remained silent. As the voice of the organization, coach Mike Nolan was asked how the Yorks are handling the difficulties.

"They're as disappointed as anybody, there's no question," Nolan said. "Their expectations were just like ours were -- just like the fans were. Believe me, they took some of their expectation from the things I said going into the season. Obviously, the head coach should have some kind of idea."

"I was wrong. So they're as disappointed as anyone. Outside of that, they've been positive from the standpoint of continuing to work hard and continuing to play until the very end. They've been very supportive and very positive through this whole thing."

The 49ers expected to challenge for the NFC West title. They had set their sights on a playoff appearance after going 7-9 last season and adding some key players during free agency.

But the 49ers have struggled throughout this season. Even while getting out to a 2-0 start, the 49ers offense was the worst in the NFL. In last week's loss to Minnesota, the 49ers turned the ball over five times. The week before at Carolina, San Francisco had six turnovers.

The 49ers rank last in the league in a lot of offensive statistics, including total yards, passing yards, first downs, third-down efficiency and points per game.

When asked if he knows why things went south and whether he has solutions to what ails the 49ers, Nolan answered, "There will be a time and place to go into that. But there's more clarity in my mind about several things than there were two months ago, no question. I think I have a much better visual of a lot of things."

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One of the most respected 49ers of all time admitted he has not experienced much fun this season. Veteran defensive lineman Bryant Young, who contemplated retirement following last season, hinted that he might call it quits after this season.

"You know what," Young said. "I'm just trying to get through this day. I'm going to be honest. My days are numbered. Let's be real about it."

When asked if that was a hint that he might retire, Young said, "Let's leave it at that. Read into it how you may."

Young admitted that this season has taken a toll on him. The 49ers were expected to challenge for the NFC West title, but instead have struggled during one of their worst seasons of Young's distinguished 14-year career.

"This has been probably one of the most emotional and mentally tough years I've been through because of the expectations that I had coming into the season," Young said. "Just trying to figure out where it all went wrong has been puzzling."

Nolan isn't saying where the team currently stands about Young returning next season, but Young is having another solid season at age 35 and leads the team by a wide margin with 6.5 sacks.

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The 49ers did a nice job -- extraordinary job, really -- on Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson, but it did not mean a darn thing in their 20-point loss.

"There are no moral victories in stopping Adrian Peterson," 49ers cornerback Nate Clements said. "We had a game plan all week to stop their run, and we were able to stop one guy, but (Chester) Taylor was still able to move the ball on us."

Peterson, who entered the game with a league-leading 1,197 rushing yards and a 6.5-yard average, managed just three yards on 14 carries against the 49ers.

The game featured the likely NFL rookies of the year. Linebacker Patrick Willis had eight tackles and a fumble recovery for the 49ers.

"This is not a one-on-one battle," Willis said. "This is the ultimate team sport. It is not about one guy stopping another guy. It is about the defense as a unit stopping their offense. I thought we did a good job on Peterson, but we did it as a unit."

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The 49ers, who were blown out 24-0 by Seattle the last time they appeared on national television Nov. 12, have been spared another showing on national prime-time TV, thanks to the NFL's flex scheduling format.

The 49ers' game on Dec. 23, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which originally was the national Sunday night game scheduled for a 5:15 p.m. start on NBC, has been changed. Now the 49ers will play the Bucs on Fox at 1:05 p.m. that day.

In the 49ers' place, NBC will now show the Redskins-Vikings game to a national TV audience. The 49ers will play this Saturday evening against the Bengals on the NFL Network, a game that begins at 5:15 p.m. The 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 20-17 in their Sept. 10 Monday night season opener in the first of four games on their original schedule that were slated for prime time.

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Quarterback Alex Smith is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his injured right shoulder on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. Noted orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews is scheduled to perform the procedure.

The rehabilitation is expected to take approximately three months, which means Smith could be available to participate in the team's first minicamp of the spring.

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Quarterback Trent Dilfer was released from Stanford Hospital Sunday night after going in for observation after sustaining a concussion in the second quarter. He is doubtful for Saturday's game against the Bengals.

Dilfer wasn't in the right frame of mind to speak with reporters on Monday in the team locker room.

"I can barely think, let alone talk," he said.

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Quarterback Shaun Hill is likely to make his first career start on Saturday against Cincinnati. Hill, 27, has been in the NFL for six seasons but he threw his first NFL regular-season passes on Sunday against the Vikings.

He ended up throwing a lot more. Hill completed 22 of 28 passes for 180 yards with one TD and one interception. He is playing with a broken and dislocated right index finger.

Hill spoke to reporters Monday with an ACE bandage around the forefinger of his throwing hand. Hill broke the finger in mid November, and after playing Sunday it was swollen and discolored.

Hill said that is typical of his daily routine. He and the team's training staff remove the swelling from the finger and it returns the next day in practice. Hill played with a small brace on the finger Sunday, which contributed to the ball twice slipping from his hand and popping into the air - and into the hands of Minnesota defenders for a turnover.

The first slip originally was ruled an interception but was changed to a fumble Monday by the league. Hill also was given an extra passing yard on a completion to Delanie Walker, giving him 181 yards passing in the game. The changes meant that Hill's passer rating improved to 106.8 - easily the best rating by a 49ers' quarterback in a game this season.

When practice resumes Wednesday, Hill said he hopes to participate without any protection on his index finger. It will be the first practice in Hill's two seasons with the 49ers that he takes reps with the first-team offense as the starting quarterback.

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Running back Frank Gore, who had just one lost fumble in his first 10 games this season, lost two fumbles in last week's loss to the Vikings.

Gore, who led the NFC with a franchise-record 1,695 yards last season, goes into San Francisco's final three games needing 219 yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark this year.


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