Sports

49ers quarterback admits arm doesn't feel right

SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith is tired of supporting all the blame for the San Francisco 49ers' woes on an aching right arm that hurts more than he was letting on.

After repeatedly claiming he was healthy enough to play, the much-criticized quarterback finally admitted Wednesday that his recently separated right shoulder and a chronically strained forearm have contributed to his dismal efforts in the past three games of the 49ers' seven-game losing streak.

"Without a doubt, I'm not throwing the same way I was the first three weeks, and last year," Smith said before sitting out practice to rest his forearm. "Trying to play through this is hard. ... I chose to go out there and play, thought I could, thought it would get better as the weeks go on, and it hasn't."

Further revealing a possible lack of communication between the quarterback and his coaching staff, the former No. 1 draft pick even wondered aloud whether he should take a prolonged break to get his shoulder back in shape, perhaps for 2008.

"No excuses, I chose to go out there," Smith said. "If you asked me whether I'd do it again, that's the question. It's continued to linger, and that's the most frustrating thing for me. ... It's really been hard, because to continue to have it get reported that you're 100 percent, and that's not really the case, that's been frustrating as well."

Smith's candid discussion of his injury woes contradicted several recent statements by both Smith and coach Mike Nolan. Both have claimed the quarterback's injuries weren't serious enough to cause his inaccurate throws and the resulting lack of confidence in the third-year pro's abilities.

"I think it would be a good idea if he said that to me (first)," Nolan said after practice.

The two spoke briefly about Smith's concerns before practice, and the coach planned to have more talks with his quarterback.

"All I do is make my decision based on the medical staff and what it tells me," Nolan said. "I would never force a player to go if he says things aren't right. ... I'll go see him now, but the communication lines aren't as good as I thought. We'll see where that's at."

Smith went 12 for 28 with several horribly inaccurate throws in San Francisco's 24-0 loss to Seattle on Monday night, missing open receivers and showing poor mechanics. Though Nolan said earlier Wednesday that he expects Smith to be the 49ers' (2-7) starting quarterback Sunday against St. Louis (1-8), even Smith isn't sure that's a good idea.

"I really thought I could try to play through this and help this team," Smith said. "I feel like I was making progress, but Monday night definitely did not feel good. ... I wasn't trying to stir up anything. I thought that it would get better, and it's not."

Smith separated his throwing shoulder on a sack by Seattle's Rocky Bernard on the third play of San Francisco's loss to the Seahawks on Sept. 30. Smith sat out the next two games and the Niners' bye week, but returned sooner than expected against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 28, with Nolan praising his quarterback's toughness.

But Smith's accuracy has been off noticeably since his return. He's 51 of 109 for 453 yards and three interceptions in the past three games, while his 48.7 completion rate and 57.2 passer rating this season are 30th among NFL quarterbacks -- dead-last among all passers with enough action to qualify for league statistics.

Around the bye week in mid-October, Smith also developed a strained forearm with muscle spasms, affecting his release and even his ability to grip the ball. Smith believes his forearm weakened when he went back to practice after prolonged inactivity with his shoulder in a sling.

Smith has been roundly criticized for his poor play in the past three weeks, but he repeatedly denied the injury had anything to do with it. When everything changed Wednesday, Nolan was left wondering why his quarterback had taken a new viewpoint.

"Everybody is sore," Nolan said. "I'm sore. Has that affected my performance? Maybe, but I'm not going to talk about it. I have yet to say anybody is 100 percent."

In other news, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin will miss the next four weeks after straining his right calf in the 49ers' loss at Seattle. Isaac Sopoaga is expected to start in Franklin's spot against St. Louis, while Marques Douglas also will play extensively at the position.

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