QB out for 'substantial' period of time

Updated: May 8, 2004, 9:02 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers got bad news Friday evening when a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed quarterback Tim Rattay has a serious groin injury that may require surgery.

Rattay is being groomed to take over as San Francisco's starter from Jeff Garcia, who was released this spring in a salary-cap move. The fifth-year player was injured earlier Friday while rolling out to throw a pass during the opening session of the Niners first spring minicamp.

"The preliminary word is that he's had a serious tear of the upper groin area," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said late Friday. "And it will be a substantial amount of time that he's going to miss."

Donahue said team doctors will take a closer look at the injury this weekend and then discuss with Rattay and team officials whether to operate. Either way, Rattay should be ready for the season's start, according to Donahue, though he added that "Unquestionably, there's going to be a significant amount of time that's going to be involved with this injury."

Rattay is backed up by second-year player Ken Dorsey and third-year veteran Brandon Doman.

Dorsey "will take over the reps of the No. 1 spot," Donahue said.

Rattay went 2-1 in his first three career starts last November when Garcia was out with an ankle injury. His passer rating of 96.6 and completion percentage of 61.9 were the best figures on the team last year.

But Rattay has thrown only 164 passes in four NFL seasons and the next four months are vital to his development.

"It's unfortunate for all of us, especially for Tim, because he's worked very hard and came into camp in great shape," Donahue said.

The Niners will wait to learn the severity of Rattay's injury before deciding whether to bring in an experienced quarterback as insurance.

The team only has about $1.3 million of cap room and limited ability to free up more room. That would mean they would have to convince Kerry Collins, Kordell Stewart, Jeff Blake or whoever to sign for close to the league's minimum salary. Another consideration would be Kurt Warner in June when he's cut by the Rams.

Aside from Rattay, the 49ers don't have a quarterback on their roster who has thrown a pass in an NFL game.

Information from ESPN's John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.