SANTA CLARA -- The question, "Do you look forward to returning to a more aggressive offense?" had barely been asked Thursday when Alex Smith leaped in with the answer.
"Very much so," the quarterback said. "I felt like we were making that progression from the Arizona game to the St. Louis game and up to the Pittsburgh game. That progression was coming."
That progression, however, was upended literally when safety Troy Polamalu's helmet struck Vernon Davis' leg in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh game, propelling the big tight end into the air and out of the game. Smith joined Davis on the injury report the next week when Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard drove him into the ground, separating his throwing shoulder.
The good news for the 49ers' flagging offense is that both players appear ready to rejoin the team for its next game, Oct. 21 against the New York Giants. Even better news is that they will return to an offense that's more ambitious than the one they left.
Coach Mike Nolan said Thursday the team would carve out a bigger role for receiver Ashley Lelie, one of the few players on the 49ers' roster capable of stretching the field and putting pressure on opposing defenses.
Rex Ryan, the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, essentially told Nolan that Lelie was one of the few offensive players the Ravens feared when, following Sunday's game, he said the Ravens were prepared to double-team Lelie when he entered the game.
Lelie ended up playing only one snap against the Ravens.
As for Davis and Smith, both said they plan to practice Wednesday when the 49ers begin preparing for the Giants.
BURGESS, WARREN HURTING -- The last two years, Derrick Burgess has been the Raiders' most productive defensive lineman. But with a lingering calf injury that began nearly a month ago, the Pro Bowl end is lucky just to get on the practice field. He's not the only Oakland defensive lineman hurting, either.
Gerard Warren, who leads the team with three sacks and has been a force in the middle since moving into the lineup in Week 3, hasn't practiced since sustaining a thigh injury during a team drill last Thursday.
Missing two starters up front is not exactly the way the Raiders want to face a potent San Diego offense coming off its most productive game of the year.
"It is what it is," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. "Guys will need to step up. We're prepared to go without them. It looks like it's going to go that way, so we'll have guys step up just like we would for any of our positions."
QUICK HITTERS -- Carolina quarterback David Carr missed practice for a second consecutive day with a sore back, increasing the chances 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde could start Sunday at Arizona. ... Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth did not practice, missing a second day in a row with a sore ankle. ... Minnesota defensive end Erasmus James was listed on the injury report with a shoulder injury Thursday, one day after reportedly getting into a fight with teammate Chester Taylor in the locker room. Several media outlets reported that James got into a scuffle with Taylor in the locker room after practice Wednesday, but it was unclear whether James was injured in the fight or during practice.