The 49ers players returned to practice today as they get ready to face the St. Louis Rams this Sunday in a battle to remain in the NFC West playoff race. The 49ers playoff chances are slim, but even still it'd be nice to put the Rams in their place and get a W.
The big news out of practice today is that Troy Smith took all the practice snaps while Alex Smith has yet to be medically cleared to take part in practice. The "bigger" news came during Alex Smith's post-practice chat with the media. He addressed Coach Singletary's comments about a lack of leadership in the first half of the season, and now we've got a mini-controversy developing. We've got a FanPost by sigma about the disagreements between Mike Singletary and Alex Smith regarding leadership issues. I generally get transcripts of media sessions so hopefully I'll have that sooner rather than later. I'll post it after the jump of this post once I get it.
While the disagreement could be a serious issue, we don't really know yet. I don't know if it's necessarily as bad as some folks might make it out to be, but at the end of the day who really knows. Whatever the case, the significant issue in my opinion is that Troy Smith is taking the snaps and Alex Smith appears likely to site out this Sunday's game against the Rams. That's obviously not a guarantee, but when you're not medically cleared after the first day of practice for the week, it's not a good sign.
He noted that Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford had a similar injury early in the season and aggravated it on Sunday. "Obviously, you want to be tough and go out there and play banged up," Smith said. "But if it's going to be something that's going to become chronic, if you're going to fall on it and then be out another couple of weeks, I'd rather take the extra couple of days and get it right."
I'm sure some people might view Alex Smith as soft, but it seems pretty obvious that QB shoulder injuries can be easily aggravated. When I saw highlights of Stafford going down after passing the ball, the hit didn't seem all that hard. What we fail to consider is the size of the guy driving the QB into the ground. It may appear to be a light hit, but in reality that's a lot of force.
Of course, the upside to this injury is that we might get at least one more week to see what Troy Smith brings to the table. He may end up on the junk heap of former Heisman Trophy winners, but I'd at least like a few games to figure that out. The Rams don't have an overwhelming defense, but it's been solid enough thus far for them. Of course, they're an improvement over a fairly dreadful Broncos defense, so it should hopefully provide a better test for Troy Smith.