Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expects Aldon Smith to play at least "some" on Sunday against the Panthers and said Smith's total snap count will depend on nothing but his conditioning. Smith missed six weeks of practice while he was at an out-of-state treatment facility. He played 95 percent of the team's defensive snaps in the first three games this season.
"After a six-week layoff, he may not be back conditioning-wise," Fangio said. "Every game takes on its own personality - how many plays you're playing, how many plays you're playing in a row, how many plays you're playing in different packages. This will be a fluid situation."
Fangio, who watched Smith on Wednesday go through his first, full practice since returning to the team last week, said the outside linebacker looked "a little rusty, obviously." But he also said it shouldn't take Smith, 24, too long to get back to playing form.
"It's not like the guy has an injury to overcome," Fangio said. "He just has to overcome inactivity."
Asked if he was comfortable with Smith playing, Fangio said, "Yeah, absolutely." He added that Smith wasn't getting all the practice snaps at right outside linebacker this week "because you've got to get everybody ready." He presumably meant that Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier, who filled in for Smith over the last five games, also will get practice repetitions with the first-team defense.
Fangio was more non-committal about whether two newcomers to the defense, rookie defensive end Tank Carradine and cornerback Eric Wright, would play against Carolina.
Asked if he'd try to get Carradine into the game, Fangio said, "Ah, he's progressing and getting better. He's still fighting through his injury and fighting through learning the system and playing the way we want him to play. So he's making good progress. When he'll play - if he'll play - this week, we haven't decided yet."
Fangio also said he hasn't decided on Wright's playing time. Wright and Carradine are going through their first week of practice with the 49ers this week.
-- Matt Barrows