SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Trent Dilfer will start for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in place of quarterback Alex Smith, who finally acknowledged a serious arm injury has been affecting his play.
Dilfer, the 14-year veteran who struggled through three straight losses while filling in for Smith, got the assignment Thursday from coach Mike Nolan. The 49ers still aren't certain whether Smith's injuries will keep him out for the season, though Smith has entertained the possibility.
Smith and Nolan had a lengthy meeting Wednesday following the quarterback's public disclosure that his recently separated right shoulder led to a forearm injury that prevents him from throwing well. Smith and Nolan previously denied Smith's arm injury was causing his poor play.
So with newly revealed fractures in a locker room that usually seems united under Nolan's leadership, the 49ers (2-7) will turn to Dilfer as they attempt to stop their seven-game losing streak Sunday at home against the St. Louis Rams (1-8).
``There's no time for me to be sympathetic (toward Smith),'' said Dilfer, who has a close relationship with the former No. 1 draft pick. ``My job is to go out and play the best football I can play. ... My relationship with Alex won't change, but I don't have time for that drama or any other type of drama.''
Dilfer got his first snaps since 2005 after Smith was injured on the third play of San Francisco's loss to Seattle on Sept. 30. Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2000 season, went 47-of-90 for 463 yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions for the 49ers.
Smith said his forearm still hurt, and he planned to sit out most of practice Thursday for the second straight day. He acknowledged a bit of regret for airing his communication problems with Nolan in public before discussing them fully with the head coach.
``This is like a family, it's so tight,'' Smith said. ``Mike and I have been close ever since I was drafted. You're going to have disagreements. It's going to happen in any family. It's working through this. Could I have done anything differently? Yeah, maybe. He said I need to communicate better, and I need to.''
Smith said he might travel to Alabama to meet with Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who has reviewed the results of his recent MRIs, but doesn't have any current plans to do so. Smith realizes he could be done for the season.
``It will have to do with what the doctors think is best for the long term,'' Smith said. ``I think the point is to come back when you're functional.''
Though Smith's 57.2 passer rating is the worst among all quarterbacks with enough snaps to qualify, it's still higher than Dilfer's 55.0. Those struggling quarterbacks are just two reasons San Francisco's offense is last in the league in several categories.
``I have some major things I need to improve on from the last time I played, so it's time for me to do that,'' Dilfer said.
Even with a running game finally showing signs of life, the 49ers managed just 173 yards and six first downs in a 24-0 loss to the Seahawks on Monday night. Two days later, Smith shared his simmering displeasure at being made the fall guy for the 49ers' offensive woes while playing with an injured arm.
But even after meeting with Nolan, Smith still seemed to hold a bit of disappointment at Nolan's repeated declarations that Smith was fully healthy.
``He and I have talked in the past,'' Smith said. ``What I was saying and what he was hearing might have been different. In the future, I'll try to be more clear.''

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