Shoulder problems resurface for Alex Smith

A team spokesman told SFI on Saturday afternoon that Alex Smith will not be leaving the 49ers this weekend to receive consultation on his injured shoulder and will be with the team for Sunday's season opener against Arizona. But Smith is listed as doubtful for the game after experiencing shoulder problems following Friday's practice, and more about his status probably won't be known until Monday.

Little is known about the severity of Smith's injury at this time, the team source said. Smith went through practice as usual on Friday and was seen throwing passes with his usual strong velocity. Smith apparently felt a twinge in his throwing shoulder during the session but continued to practice. The shoulder then began giving Smith what was described as normal post-practice soreness.

Apparently, his condition was found to be more of a problem after he was examined by team trainers, and the team downgraded his status for Sunday's opener. Shaun Hill will now move into the backup role behind starter J.T. O'Sullivan against the Cardinals. If the 49ers need to use a third quarterback, it is unlikely Smith would be available. In that situation, the team probably would turn to running back Michael Robinson, who played quarterback in college at Penn State.

In a statement just issued by the team, coach Mike Nolan said, "Yesterday, Alex Smith sustained a non-contact injury to his surgically repaired right shoulder. He will be consulting with his surgeon in Birmingham for treatment recommendations. At this time there are no specifics to the injury or a timetable."

That consultation is likely to be via telecommunication and Smith is not currently scheduled to leave the Bay Area, according to the team.

Smith had surgery to repair his separated right shoulder last December, a procedure that was performed by Birmingham, Ala., surgeon James Andrews. Smith separated the shoulder during a Week 4 loss against Seattle last year, and his condition only worsened when he attempted to return to action a month after the injury.

Smith made a rapid recovery and was back in his slot as the team's No. 1 quarterback by the time San Francisco conducted its spring minicamp in early May. Smith said throughout training camp this summer that his shoulder didn't give him any problems, and it felt back to normal except for perhaps some accuracy on his deep throws.

When asked late last month if his arm was all the way back from the surgery, Smith replied, "Yeah. I feel good out there. There may be some last little lingering things that I continue to work out from the workload that I have now. It's hard to simulate that kind of throwing, that kind of pitch count so to speak, that I have had the last few weeks. My arm feels good. I feel good where I am at right now. Especially after going through camp. That's the major load of throwing that I would get all season. To go through that where I am right now, I feel very good about."

Smith was unavailable for comment Saturday. He remained in his role as the 49ers' lead quarterback until Aug. 6, when O'Sullivan began taking the bulk of snaps with the first-unit offense. O'Sullivan started San Francisco's first three exhibition games and was named Aug. 22 as the team's starting quarterback for the regular season.

O'Sullivan did not play in the 49ers' preseason finale Aug. 29 against the San Diego Chargers. Smith started in O'Sullivan's place in that game and produced an uneven performance that was typical of his preseason, completing 12 of 17 passes for 146 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Smith has practiced without incident since then. Until Friday.

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