If you had asked me yesterday whether I though Alex Smith would play Sunday against the Giants, I have said, 'Bet on it.' Good thing you didn't ask because today I'd advise you to keep your money in your pocket. Smith certainly hasn't suffered a setback. And he threw again at practice, taking part in individual drills. But coaches and trainers didn't want him taking part in team drills, which for the last week or so had been Smith's goal. You could tell he was a little crestfallen by the decision.
"A little bit," he said when asked if he was disappointed. "We'll see. I still was able to do a lot of individual stuff today and throw a lot of those routes, which was good. It's better to be out here than sitting in the training room."
If the training staff didn't want Smith taking part in a non-contact, no-pads practice on Wednesday, it's hard to imagine them giving Smith the green light to play in a real game Sunday on an artificial surface against a defense that leads the league in sacks. If Smith sits out team drills again Thursday, you might as well write Trent Dilfer's name into the starting lineup. But you'd better do it in pencil just to be safe. And don't bet on it.
Mike Nolan went into Mr. Mysterioso mode when asked whether OC Jim Hostler might start calling games from the coaches' booth. "We've spoken about it, but we'll wait until game day before we say anything more about it." The comment made it sound as if, yes, Hostler would indeed be heading upstairs for the rest of the season. Hostler, however, said that wouldn't be the case. He decided early on that he is more comfortable on the field where he can talk to his offensive players, and that hasn't changed. "Our inability to get it done on offense has nothing to do with where I call the plays," he said.
How many times did the offensive lineman-needy Redskins call the 49ers this season about Kwame Harris? Not once. In fact, the phone was mostly silent on Tuesday, the NFL's trade deadline. The only team that was wheeling and dealing was the Dolphins, who ultimately shipped receiver Chris Chambers to San Diego in exchange for a second-round draft pick. The 49ers need some pizzazz at receiver and they like Chambers. But a second rounder was too steep for San Francisco, and Chambers' $5.5 million salary was a little pricey as well. It was a deal only a team on the verge of a Super Bowl could make and the 49ers are not that team.
-- Matt Barrows