49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 10, 2008
Smith on IR; Will he be in 49ers uniform again?

Mike Nolan began his Wednesday morning press conference by saying that Alex Smith will be placed on injured reserve, thus ending his season. As reported earlier, the team has signed ex Rams quarterback Jamie Martin to take his place on the roster. It was obvious that Nolan didn't want to spend much time talking about Smith. He said he didn't know any of the specifics of the injury, which is unlikely given that it happened five days ago and an MRI was taken Friday night. He also refused to address Smith's future with the team, saying he didn't want to deal in hypotheticals. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.

What's been known since Saturday night is that Smith has a fracture in the same shoulder that was badly separated last year. The results of the MRI have been examined by Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon who operated on Smith's shoulder in December. Presumably it was Andrews' recommendation that prompted the 49ers to put Smith on IR. Smith has said that surgery is an option for the latest injury.

Smith's future with the team also is dubious. Last week Scot McCloughan said that the team couldn't afford to keep Smith next season if he is not a starter. Smith is scheduled to earn just under $10 million in base salary in 2009.

The team dropped Louis Holmes from the practice squad and added DL Larry Birdine to take his place. Birdine is a former Oklahoma DL who has spent time with the Packers and Broncos. He is listed as 6-4, 270 pounds. He was orginally signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2007. ***** Birdine told me he weighs 257 pounds at the moment. That makes it sound as if he'll be linebacker in the 49ers system, but Birdine said he didn't know yet how he'll be used.

The Seahawks are decimated at receiver this week with Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson and Deion Branch injured. As a result, Seneca Wallace (Rancho Cordova High) is likely to see action, and that, Nolan said, brings its own challenges. Last year, the multi-talented Wallace played QB, WR and attempted a reverse pass against the 49ers

Nolan would not reveal whether Jeff Ulbrich or takeo Spikes would start at "Ted" linebacker. Look for them to rotate like they did against Arizona. Asked how Spikes played on defense, Nolan said, "OK." He said Spikes was still mastering the defense. "If this was the peak (of his play) ... I'd be less excited," Nolan said.

Justin Smith lined up at seven different positions Sunday and Nolan said he was very pleased with his new acquisition. Nolan said the result is that offenses spend a lot of time figuring out where Smith is lining up on a given play. "They've got to find him and that's a good thing for the other guys," Nolan said.

It doesn't look as if Tully Banta-Cain will be seeing much playing time in the near future. Nolan noted that fellow outside linebackers Roderick Green and Parys Haralson had strong games against the Cardinals. Green had "three or four hits" on the QB, Nolan said while Haralson had 2 1/2 QB sacks. Haralson was in for 19 plays. Nolan said Banta-Cain paid a visit to his office the other day to discuss his playing time.
***Update**** One of the half sacks that Haralson was awarded Sunday was given to Justin Smith. That means Smith finished with one sack, Haralson with two.

Center Eric Heitmann (shoulder) and CB Donald Strickland (knee) are being held out of practice today but neither injury is considered serious.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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