NFL: Arm troubles sideline 49ers' Smith

SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith is out of action for Sunday's game against St. Louis. Trent Dilfer is in.

Now the question is when or if the 49ers' former No.1 draft pick will return to play this season.

Smith said Thursday he is sending MRI images of both his right shoulder and right forearm to noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and that he also was contemplating paying Andrews a visit.

Smith threw lightly Thursday and, when asked whether he would play again in 2007, said he thought he would.

"A lot of it has to do with what Dr. Andrews thinks and what our doctors think, as far as the long term how long it's going to take for this to go away," he said. "The point is to come back when you're functional, come back when it works and I can be productive."

Though his shoulder, separated Sept.30, has garnered plenty of coverage in the past three weeks, Smith's lesser-know forearm issue will keep him sidelined Sunday against St. Louis. Smith said the muscles in his right forearm started to spasm when he began his return from the shoulder injury. He said he thought the issue would go away but it has not. In fact, he said, it has been affecting his grip on the football and therefore his accuracy.

Dilfer will make his third start of the season.

As poorly as Smith has played this year, the argument can be made Dilfer has been worse. He has thrown five interceptions against three touchdowns and his quarterback rating of 55 is more than two points below Smith's. Dilfer will be without receiver Ashley Lelie, who will miss Sunday's game after straining his quadriceps in practice Wednesday.

RICKY GETS OK TO PLAY -- Coach Cam Cameron decided Thursday to welcome Ricky Williams back, and he'll be on the field starting with Monday's workout. His first game in nearly two years could come a week later, Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh. Williams has tested positive for marijuana at least four times since the Dolphins acquired him in 2002. Miami's franchise-record playoff drought began that same year. Cameron said his players favored Williams' return from a 1½-year suspension, and the 2002 NFL rushing champion embraced yet another fresh start. "I'm at a place now where it's easier for me to appreciate being a football player," Williams said. "I hated being a football player before."

QUICK HITTERS -- Eleven days after injuring his foot in a game against the Packers, Chiefs running back Larry Johnson is moving better and the swelling has reduced enough for him to put on a pair of green-and-yellow sneakers. Though ruled out for Sunday's game at Indianapolis, Johnson says he will play again this season. ... Broncos running back Travis Henry (slightly torn posterior cruciate ligament) may have to wear the brace if he wants to suit up Monday against the Titans. ... Pro Bowl middle linebacker Antonio Pierce vowed to play Sunday for the Giants against the Lions despite nagging "little headaches" from a concussion suffered last weekend.