Ankle sidelines Garcia

SAN FRANCISCO -- Quarterback Jeff Garcia won't play Sunday in the San Francisco 49ers' game against St. Louis to rest his injured left ankle.

Tim Rattay will make his first NFL start in place of Garcia, a
three-time Pro Bowler who has struggled with several injuries all
season. He has a partially torn ligament around his ankle,
prompting team doctors to suggest holding him out for a week.

"It has been a nagging injury holding me back every single
week," Garcia said Thursday. "Hopefully this will give me an
opportunity to somewhat heal up, but it was not really what I was
looking forward to, not what I was hoping for."

Garcia's streak of 61 straight starts, fifth longest among
active quarterbacks, would end Sunday.

Rattay, a fourth-year pro, has played sparingly as Garcia's
backup the past three seasons. He is 15-of-24 for 162 yards and a
touchdown while playing in four games this season.

Coach Dennis Erickson decided to make his decision early to give
Rattay plenty time to prepare.

"(Garcia) just can't move, so there's no reason to put him out
there without his mobility," Erickson said. "It doesn't change
anything we do as far as our game plan is concerned. Our game plan
is fit for both guys."

Nobody questions the toughness of Garcia, who has played through
numerous injuries during his five seasons with the 49ers. He hurt
his back while lifting weights during the summer, forcing him to
miss much of training camp, and he also sustained several minor
injuries to his ankles and arms that didn't prevent him from

Garcia's health was improving until last week's 16-13 loss to
Arizona, when he sprained his ankle and missed several series. He
rushed for two touchdowns against the Cardinals, but couldn't get
the 49ers in the end zone late in the game.

"When I look at it, it's an ankle sprain," Garcia said. "When
they look at it, it's torn ligaments and strained ligaments and
strained muscles and all those things that come into play."

Garcia was held out of practice Wednesday, but the 49ers often
rest their offensive stars during the week. The quarterback
attended a Sacramento Kings game Wednesday night with three of his
offensive linemen, and he didn't appear to be particularly hobbled.

Garcia has passed for 1,523 yards with eight touchdowns and
eight interceptions. His passer rating is a dismal 72.0, and he
hasn't rallied the 49ers (3-5) to any of the comeback victories
that have been his specialty.

Garcia has been the 49ers' full-time starter since winning the
job late in the 1999 season. He played five seasons in the CFL with
the Calgary Stampeders before joining San Francisco.

He led the 49ers to consecutive playoff appearances over the
last two years, including a dramatic comeback victory over the New
York Giants last season.

Garcia's absence is the biggest blow yet for the 49ers'
struggling offense, which has dealt with injuries on the offensive
line and the declining production of All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens, who has criticized Garcia this season.