Smith to try throwing drills this week in practice
Still facing the possibility of season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith is scheduled to go through some light throwing drills Wednesday and Thursday, and doctors will then re-evaluate him by the end of the week.
It was expected that Smith would be re-examined early this week, either by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews or 49ers team orthopedist Dr. Tim McAdams, in an attempt to reach some clarity about the condition of his throwing shoulder and forearm.
But the plan now is for Smith to throw for at least two days, without cutting loose at full velocity, before the doctors review his case. That review, which will come after getting some feedback from Smith on how his arm feels, will probably be conducted on Friday, and likely by phone.
There are no current plans for Smith to revisit Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., where he traveled Nov. 20 to have his shoulder examined.
Surgery for Smith, who has not thrown since Nov. 18 and not played in a game since a Nov. 12 loss at Seattle, remains an option.
Smith told Bay Area reporters last week that , even after nearly two weeks of rest, he still can't raise his right arm above his shoulder without discomfort. The first player chosen in the 2006 draft, Smith, 23, suffered a Grade III separation of his right shoulder on Sept. 30.
While he was rehabilitating the injury, he experienced pain in his right forearm.
ESPN.com reported on Nov. 20 that Smith, after being examined by Andrews, was apprised that the shoulder separation was not significantly improved and might actually be worse in some ways than when he initially viewed the original MRI of the injury three weeks earlier.
Andrews prescribed two weeks of rest and then a re-evaluation, and he acknowledged surgery might be necessary to correct the damage to the shoulder. If Smith does have the shoulder surgery, he will face months of rehabilitation.
About three weeks ago, Smith complained that his throwing arm was "killing" him and revealed that, in addition to the shoulder separation, he had developed tendinitis in his forearm. He had a cortisone injection for his forearm soreness but that did not markedly improve the condition.
In his seven starts this season, Smith has completed 94-of-193 passes for 914 yards, with only two touchdown passes and four interceptions, for a passer rating of 57.2. Perhaps in part because of the shoulder and forearm injuries, the former Utah star has appeared to regress in some areas over his performance of a year ago.
Smith started the first four games of the season before sustaining the shoulder separation and then missed two games before returning to the lineup for three contests. With his arm clearly aching and his production waning, some opponents and teammates said Smith grimaced nearly every time he threw the ball.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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