Smith might be done; SF on lookout for 3rd QB

Alex Smith has a fracture in his right shoulder, and his status for the remainder of the season will be determined Monday after his condition is further evaluated by the surgeon who repaired his separated throwing shoulder last year. Smith's 2008 season is likely over before it even started, and coach Mike Nolan confirmed the 49ers already are looking for another third option at quarterback.

When asked after Sunday's 23-13 loss to Arizona in San Francisco's season opener if he thinks the 49ers will have to go out and find another quarterback, considering Smith's condition, Nolan responded, "For the role of third quarterback, right now, yes. Scot (general manager Scot McCloughan) and I visited on it yesterday and today, and we've tossed around some different names, but other than that, I don't have anything else specific."

Will the 49ers look for a veteran or a young guy to take over the No. 3 role behind starter J.T. O'Sullivan and backup Shaun Hill, who was elevated to the No. 2 role in place of Smith on Saturday after Smith re-injured his shoulder during practice Friday?

"We have names of both right now," Nolan said.

Smith could be facing another surgery on the shoulder that required season-ending surgery last year after he felt something twinge in the shoulder while attempting a deep pass late during Friday's practice.

"It was non-contact … it was (while) throwing," Smith said Sunday, when he was on the San Francisco sideline in sweat clothes. "It was kind of gradual, then I felt something on a throw as I let the ball go. I tried (to throw after that) a little, but it was definitely painful."

Smith said he believes it is a new injury and not related to his separated shoulder sustained when Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard slammed him to the ground in Week 4 of last season.

Smith has had a MRI exam on the shoulder and the film has been sent to Dr. James Andrews, the noted Birmingham, Ala., surgeon who repaired Smith's shoulder last December. Andrews apparently will be in consultation with 49ers trainers and doctors and a course of action for Smith will be determined at some point Monday.

"They're trying to figure it out, see what it is," Smith said. "I should find out tomorrow. That's the goal."

When asked if surgery is an option, Smith responded," Potentially, talking about it, but (I) don't know anything definitive right now. I should find out tomorrow what the plan is."

Smith said he has recently experienced some soreness in the shoulder, "But nothing like this," he said.

It has been reported that Smith has a fracture of the coracoid process, a bone in the shoulder that is rarely broken. The unexpected development is a surprise diagnosis, and there is speculation Smith may have had a stress fracture in the shoulder that gave way when he threw the deep pass on Friday.

When asked if he believed he already had a stress fracture in that area of his shoulder, Smith said, "Potentially. They're trying to figure that out. That's the goal. Hopefully the films get down to Dr. Andrews tomorrow and they'll talk and see what's what."

The 49ers likely will see what's what on the open market for quarterbacks and consider their options Monday and sign a replacement for Smith by Tuesday so that the new QB can begin practicing with the team Wednesday in preparation for next week's game against four-time defending NFC West champion Seattle.

The 49ers had undrafted rookie Kyle Wright on the roster during training camp, but he was released during the first roster cutdown in August and is not considered a likely candidate to be considered by the team, which will be looking for experience over unproven youth at this point – particulary since the team was forced to start four different quarterbacks due to injuries last year.


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