SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Troy Smith has never much cared what people thought of his size, shaking off those skeptics who called him too small to be an NFL quarterback.
Not that much different, really, from 49ers coach Mike Singletary during his days as a Hall of Fame middle linebacker -- at all of 6 feet tall.
"What you guys are going to say is I've got a prototypical sportswriter or media person [build] -- 6-foot, handsome," Smith joked. "I totally understand to a certain extent what is quote, unquote expected at the position. Players are players and guys are going to be guys and there's nothing you can do about it. You've just got to line up and lace 'em up every single day. I am who I am."
And anybody who thought to tell Smith to play another position?
"If they did, I shut them down real fast," he said.
Smith is now getting his shot as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers -- at least, it appears, through this weekend. There's a slim chance the plan could change in the next few days if Alex Smith is healthy enough to go by Sunday's game with St. Louis.
That seems like a longshot. He hasn't even been cleared medically.
Singletary said Troy Smith would take all the snaps with the first-team offense in practice, though he didn't rule out Alex Smith taking back his old job if his separated, non-throwing left shoulder has improved enough to play against the Rams. Alex Smith was injured in a loss at Carolina on Oct. 24.
"If Alex were healthy, I think right now he'd still be the quarterback," Singletary said. "He threw a little bit the other day but we just have to be smart about him as well. Alex is smart enough to know that the worst thing he can do is go out there and play with a hurt shoulder and worsen the injury."
Troy Smith rallied the Niners to a 24-16 win over the Broncos in London on Oct. 31 -- and the team certainly wants to see if he can do it again. San Francisco (2-6) is coming off its bye week having won two of three games following a surprising 0-5 start. A little momentum for a team that is still in contention in the mediocre NFC West it was picked to win before the season began.
Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, was 12 for 19 for 196 yards after a slow start. Singletary is confident he knows enough of the playbook to lead the Niners. The 49ers faxed study materials to his home in Cleveland last week when players were off.
Singletary doesn't care that Smith is just 6-foot and 217 pounds, small by NFL quarterback standards.
"I put it this way: You look at Michael Vick, he's not the ideal size of a quarterback. You look at Drew Brees and he's not the ideal size of a quarterback," Singletary said. "To me, I'm the last guy that's going to look at somebody's size."
Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, has completed 143 of 242 passes for 1,554 yards and nine touchdowns with nine interceptions and 13 sacks. He has a subpar 75.0 quarterback rating.
Smith doubts he will be ready by Sunday. He said he would be examined again by a doctor in the coming days.
"As far as functioning goes, I think I could go out and run around and throw," he said. "I think the other part of the function is putting the shoulder pads on and being able to sustain hits and staying out there."
While both quarterbacks named Smith hope to be the guy down the stretch for San Francisco, it's unclear who ultimately will be behind center after Sunday. If Troy Smith flops, it will likely be Alex Smith again. If Troy Smith shines, Singletary will have a tough choice on his hands.
Troy Smith is focused only on preparing himself for this week, unsure about the future.
"I don't know. You got the pen. You tell me," he said of his starting status down the road. "I hope so."