Herrion, 23, collapsed and died shortly after game

DENVER (AP) -- San Francisco offensive lineman Thomas Herrion
collapsed in the locker room and was rushed to the hospital
Saturday night after the 49ers' 26-21 preseason loss to the Denver

Herrion was on the field during San Francisco's frantic 14-play,
91-yard touchdown drive that ended with 2 seconds left in the game.

Shortly after the Niners entered the locker room, Herrion
collapsed. Emergency workers were performing CPR on the lineman as
he was being placed in an ambulance.

Coach Mike Nolan said he had no comments about the game.

"There are more important things on our mind than the game,"
he said.

Herrion, a first-year player with the 49ers, played college ball
at Utah and spent part of last season on the Dallas and San
Francisco practice squads. He played in NFL Europe earlier this
year and was listed as a third-string left guard for the Niners.

Players said he collapsed just after coaches finished addressing
players after the game.

"All we could do is what we know how to do, and that was stand
back and let the medical staff do their job," Niners defensive
lineman Marques Douglas said.

Before Herrion collapsed, the big story of the game for the
Niners had been Tim Rattay's performance and the possibility that
he might win the starting quarterback job from Alex Smith, the
first pick of this year's draft.

For the second straight week, Rattay relieved Smith and
outplayed him.

Rattay, who started nine games for the 49ers last season, went
7-for-11 for 91 yards and led them to two touchdowns, just like he
did last week. He also ran a decent 2-minute drill at the end of
the first half that resulted in a missed 55-yard field goal

In contrast, Smith was not sharp during his four series to start
the game.

He went 2-for-7 for 22 yards and both completions were
adventures: the first courtesy of a leaping, one-handed grab by
Brandon Lloyd, the other resulting in Billy Bajema's departure from
the game after he was met by John Lynch, who hammered Bajema with a
hard, but legal, helmet-to-helmet hit.

Nolan would undoubtedly like to make Smith his starter, as the
Niners start rebuilding from last year's 2-14 debacle. But so far
this preseason, Smith is looking every bit like the rookie he is
and Rattay, the sixth-year veteran, is moving the offense.

His first touchdown drive included only one pass, but it came
against Denver's first-team defense and everything the 49ers did
looked more crisp and confident than with Smith at the helm. The
second touchdown was a 58-yarder to Arnaz Battle, who was wide open
thanks to a blown coverage by Denver's backup secondary. It gave
the Niners a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Broncos starter Jake Plummer rolled through San
Francisco's newly designed 3-4 defense to start the game, capping a
five-play, 68-yard drive with Mike Anderson's 2-yard touchdown

The next drive started off almost as smoothly, but the Broncos
bogged down inside the 20 with two holding penalties and a botched
snap. They had to settle for a field goal -- a familiar flashback to
last season when Denver struggled mightily near the end zone.

"It's still an area we have to improve on," Broncos coach Mike
Shanahan said.

Denver's special teams also were far from perfect, much like
last year. Todd Sauerbrun had a punt blocked by Keith Lewis, and
normally dependable Jason Elam missed field-goal attempts of 48 and
46 yards. On the plus side, Charlie Adams had punt returns of 39
and 29 yards in the second half.

"You can't do anything about the field goals, but the punt
block was just one guy," Shanahan said.

Jerry Rice, playing as the No. 3 receiver, caught one pass for
eight yards. The man he moved ahead of on the depth chart, Darius
Watts, botched two balls in the end zone, dropping one and failing
to get his second foot down inside the line on another.

Denver backup quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt finished 7-for-18 for
106 yards and led Denver to 10 points.

His highlight was a 32-yard completion to Todd Devoe, who again
helped his chances by making the catch despite having a defender
grabbing his left arm. Devoe, who began training camp listed ninth
of nine receivers, had a 92-yard touchdown catch last week against

Notes:@ Broncos CB Brandon Browner broke his left forearm. ...
Ron Dayne led the Broncos with 87 yards rushing on 18 carries. ...
Kevin Barlow had 36 yards and one score on eight carries.