Sports

49ers' Smith could play Sunday

SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith will return to practice Wednesday with the hope of playing Sunday against the host New York Giants, as his right shoulder separation continues to heal.

The 49ers quarterback threw on the side Monday and reported only minor forearm soreness from the constant gripping of the ball in recent days after initially resting the shoulder he injured Sept. 30 against Seattle.

Over the weekend, Smith said he gained confidence that his passing shoulder was at or near full strength by testing his velocity and range with throws as long as 55 yards.

"I tried to air it out, throwing some long balls, stretching it out," Smith said as the 49ers reconvened for practice after Sunday's bye. "The shoulder feels great. We'll continue to rehab it and, hopefully, it's full go on Wednesday."

Coach Mike Nolan said he's been told Smith should be able to return to practice Wednesday. Nolan added he was hopeful Smith would be able to play Sunday but continued to describe his status as questionable.

Smith suffered the shoulder separation when he was sacked during the opening series in a 23-3 loss to Seattle.

Trent Dilfer started for Smith in a 9-7 loss to Baltimore the following week.

Dilfer will start again if Smith and Nolan, in consultation with team doctors and the training staff, determine Smith needs additional time to heal.

Tight end Vernon Davis went through individual drills Monday and said he's on course to rejoin practice Wednesday and play Sunday.

"I've got to talk to Fergie," Davis said, referring to trainer Jeff Ferguson. "But I'm pretty sure I'll be able to go."

Davis, who went home to Washington, D.C., last weekend, said he felt rested and re-energized after getting the chance to visit family and see his 2-week-old son, Jianni.

Davis tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sept. 23 at Pittsburgh and officially remains questionable for Sunday's game.

There's a possibility offensive coordinator Jim Hostler may start calling plays from the press box rather than the sideline this week.

Nolan declined to comment Monday -- the first time he dismissed questions about Hostler's game-day positioning.

Last week, Hostler said his sideline stationing was among the issues he and Nolan planned to discuss during their bye-week review of the slumping offense.

"I don't think it's an issue," Hostler said at the time. "Not that it won't be changed and not that he doesn't feel like it might be an issue."

Hostler prefers to be on the sideline because of his ability to communicate directly with the quarterbacks and other position coaches.

Nolan was in the box in his days as a defensive coordinator and believes it provides a better vantage point for the play-caller.

Nolan said the 49ers weren't actively pursuing any trades, though he didn't rule out making a move before today's trading deadline.

"We talked about a couple of things," Nolan said, referring to personnel chief Scot McCloughan. "But as I stand here right now, there's nothing I'm excited about."

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