Different country, different quarterback. The 49ers' starter for Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium will be Troy Smith, Mike Singletary announced before the team's Wednesday practice in Hertfordshire, England. Regular starter Alex Smith will miss two to three weeks with a left shoulder sprain, he said.
The move means that Singletary has skipped over David Carr, who was ineffective after filling in for Smith on Sunday, for Troy Smith, who only joined the team on Sept. 6. Singletary cited Smith's leadership, something he displayed while winning the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State and later with the Baltimore Ravens, as a prime reason for the move. He said he thought Smith knew enough of the offense to be effective but conceded that this week's practice - the first time Smith has worked with the first-team offense - will be revealing.
"It's one thing when you are sitting down and you are looking at different plays or whatever," Singletary said. "You say, 'sure I got it,' and then you go out on the field and you have to do it fast, and you have to do it under pressure, and maybe you forget to make a call here or there. As a staff you have to look at that and that's why we practice, to kind of figure that out. We'll go from there, but I do know that however limited it'll be, it will be a situation that we put him in the best situation to win."
Singletary said the team would not elevate practice-squad quarterback Nate Davis at this time and that there would be no No. 3, or emergency, quarterback Sunday against the Broncos.
Singletary said he talked to Carr about the move and "he understands. We had a couple of conversations about it, and that's a personal thing between he and I." Carr was five of 13 in nearly a full half of play Sunday, and he threw a critical late-game interception on a pass to Michael Crabtree. After the game, Carr said that the quality of his play was bound to improve with a full week of practice.
Singletary had only been lukewarm in his assessment of Carr throughout the offseason, and he hinted -- strongly -- at this move when the 49ers signed Troy Smith just before the season began. Though Carr had been the official No. 2 quarterback, he had been sharing scout-team repetitions with Troy Smith all season. "I think for where we are, I think Troy Smith gives us a good opportunity to win games," Singletary said. Smith has appeared in 14 games with the Ravens with two starts. He was 1-1 in those games.
Alex Smith and Eric Heitmann (neck) are the only players who have been ruled out for the game. Three others -- Chilo Rachal, Joe Staley and Taylor Mays - are dealing with shoulder stingers. Cornerback Tarell Brown is doubtful with a back injury. Running back Anthony Dixon has a hamstring strain.
That Alex Smith will miss up to three weeks means that he has a shoulder separation. Singletary, however, said he did not know what degree separation Smith suffered when he was driven into the grass by Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson Sunday.
The 49ers waived safety Chris Maragos, who took part in a community event yesterday for the team, and signed CB Tramaine Brock off the practice squad. That means they have an opening on the practice squad, which likely will go to Maragos if he passes through waivers.
-- Matt Barrows