Niners notebook: An ode to B.Y.

Defensive lineman Bryant Young has been the most-respected player in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room for a while. But next season, he will not be back. He has yet to make it official, but Young has strongly intimated that he plans to retire at the conclusion of his 14th NFL season. Coach Mike Nolan opened his Monday press conference with an ode to the man they call "B.Y."

"I thought it was very evident what he has meant to the fans," Nolan said of the reaction Young got from the fans in the 49ers' 21-19 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

"After the game, obviously, his teammates carried him off the field, to parade around and get all of the fan's support. I thought that was very exciting. I know that he felt touched by it. I know that in the locker room, he was touched by it, and by everyone's involvement in it, whether it be the fans, his teammates, everyone. That was certainly a great game for him, from a home field standpoint, to go out on. That was good."

Young is the last remaining 49ers player who was part of the organization's last Super Bowl. Young was a rookie in 1994 when the 49ers breezed through the regular season and ended up defeating the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX.

Nolan said he believes Young has "passed the torch" to other players in the organization, so there will be no leadership void when he steps aside next season.

"Losing someone like that (Young), obviously someone has to step up and take that role," Nolan said. "But we do have several guys that have stepped up into that role and have done a very good job. Patrick Willis, Nate Clements and Michael Lewis are three players that, from a production standpoint defensively, have done an outstanding job. In the defensive room, there's no question that they will provide leadership as we go forward."

Young has not wanted confirm this is his final season because he said does not want to divert attention from the games. He is expected to make the inevitable announcement after Sunday's game against the Browns.

"It's difficult to even imagine this team without B.Y. on it," said 49ers linebacker Brandon Moore, a six-year player. "I think B.Y. is synonymous with the San Francisco 49ers, and the San Francisco 49ers are synonymous with B.Y."

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One of the more exciting plays of the season for the 49ers came last Sunday when cornerback Nate Clements intercepted a pass and returned it 62 yards to set up a touchdown.

The play was so exciting that vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan banged a window that serves as a partition between his box and the coaches' box.

The window shattered. Assistant coaches Johnnie Lynn and Jason Tarver received cuts on their heads from the broken glass. Both required stitches. McCloughan also received stitches for cuts on his hand.

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Quarterback Shaun Hill will be given an opportunity to compete against Alex Smith for the San Francisco 49ers' starting job next season, coach Mike Nolan said. Of course, that is assuming two things.

First, Nolan has not been given any assurances that he will return next season as head coach. He said 49ers ownership has yet to discuss their plans with him. The 49ers (5-10) finish the season Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. They have won three of their past five games after falling out of playoff contention with eight consecutive losses.

Also, there is no guarantee that Hill will be back. He is scheduled to be a free agent after the season.

Hill has played impressively in his 10 quarters of action. He took over Dec. 9 when Trent Dilfer was knocked out of the action with a season-ending concussion. Dilfer was starting in place of Smith, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery two weeks ago.

The 49ers have won both games since Hill moved into the starting lineup, and take on the role of the spoiler Sunday against the Browns.

"Our goal when I became the starter wasn't to just win one game," Hill said. "And I assure you our goal wasn't just to win two games."

The 49ers could be back in the familiar role of spoiler. Last season, they prevented the Denver Broncos from an AFC playoff appearance with an overtime victory. The Browns might advance to the playoffs with a victory.

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Hill has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 501 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating is 101.3. Hill threw three touchdown passes in last week's victory over Tampa Bay.

Hill became the first 49ers quarterback to throw for three scores since Smith had three touchdown passes Oct. 8, 2006, against the Oakland Raiders. The 49ers had gone 25 consecutive games with two or fewer scoring passes.

Afterward, when Nolan was asked if Hill will have a chance to compete with Smith for the starting job next season, he answered, "Sure, no question."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--- QB Shaun Hill has sore ribs on his right side, but he is expected to be ready to make his third career start Sunday when the 49ers end the season against the Browns. Hill has started the past two 49ers games and led the team to victories. He has five touchdown passes and one interception in 10 quarters of action for a passer rating of 101.3.
--- RB Frank Gore is the No. 15 rusher in the league after going over the 1,000-yard mark with his game Sunday against the Buccaneers. Gore rushed for 89 yards on 21 carries. He has 1,008 yards for the season. He became the fifth player in 49ers history to gain 1,000 yards or more in back to back seasons, joining Joe Perry, Roger Craig, Garrison Hearst and Charlie Garner. Gore also leads the 49ers with 51 receptions for 415 yards.
--- K Joe Nedney had his second successful surprise onside kick of the season Sunday against the Buccaneers, as he opened the second half with a kick that Delanie Walker recovered. It was his seventh successful onside kick since he came to the 49ers in 2005.
--- DE Ray McDonald, a rookie whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the draft, recorded his first career sack on Sunday when he dropped the Bucs' Jeff Garcia for a six-yard loss in the second quarter.
--- QB Chris Weinke saw his first action with the 49ers when he entered the game in the third quarter for one snap. Weinke handed off to Gore before Hill returned to the lineup after missing one play after taking a big hit. Weinke will be the backup quarterback in the finale Sunday against the Browns, too.
--- WR Arnaz Battle was held without a reception for the first time this season. Battle has 47 catches for a team-high 581 receiving yards.
--- WR Darrell Jackson caught his second touchdown pass with the 49ers this season when he made the grab on a 21-yard pass from Shaun Hill in the second quarter. Jackson had two catches for 27 yards.
--- LB Patrick Willis, the leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year, added to his credentials. He recorded 20 tackles, two sacks, forced a fumble, defensed one pass and had one quarterback hurry.


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