We can all safely assume, now that it's been announced that Brett Favre will start Sunday night, that the storyline for the nationally televised preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings will have nothing to do with Michael Crabtree's neck or Vernon Davis' knee or Alex Smith's accuracy.
That's old news.
All eyes will be on ol' No. 4, who is coming back for the umpteenth time amid the usual overblown hype. He says he'll play one or two series, so anything the 49ers do will be little more than a footnote for most of the viewing public.
Even so, there are several questions worth asking about the Niners as they approach their second preseason game. Here they are:
1. Will quarterback Alex Smith's accuracy be improved from last Sunday's performance in Indianapolis?
One can only hope. Three days after the Indy game, Smith was still answering questions about the pass he threw behind tight end Venon Davis. He had a good day at practice Thursday afternoon, completing 16 consecutive passes at the start, but he needs to be more consistent when it counts.
2. Will Crabtree and Davis play?
No. Crabtree (neck strain) hasn't worked in 11-on-11 drills since Aug. 11, and Davis sat out practice this week because of a strained right knee he suffered against the Colts. Both were ruled out Friday. Because timing between a QB and his receivers is so important, it's a lost opportunity for Smith to get in tune with his primary receivers.
Probably not. When the 49ers signed Westbrook, Singletary said the team would consider using both running backs at the same time. Thursday afternoon, they were together for about a half dozen snaps, but Gore is not expected to play Sunday, and a decision on Westbrook won't be made until game time. No need for the 49ers to tip their hand now about using their double-barreled backfield.
4. Which players will be worth keeping an eye on?
Focus on safety Reggie Smith, receiver Dominique Zeigler and quarterback Nate Davis. Smith had a good week of practice, and Zeigler has essentially solidified himself as the team's No. 4 receiver. Davis may get some snaps against the Vikings No. 2 defense to see how he plays against tougher competition. Also, linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Travis LaBoy will get some snaps. Bowman, a third-round pick out of Penn State, did not play last week (shoulder). LaBoy has missed time because of a concussion and needs to play well to win a roster spot.