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49ers could go with journeyman over former No. 1 overall pick

Some names that emerge this time of year are familiar; others not so much.

In San Fancisco, lesser-known quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan is on the 49ers' radar, while in Cincinnati, well-known wide receiver Chris Henry is back on the Bengals'.

When the 49ers held the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, it opted for Utah's Alex Smith over California's Aaron Rodgers.

Now, Rodgers has supplanted Favre in Green Bay and Smith is on the verge of getting supplanted in San Francisco -- by O'Sullivan.

Nearly two weeks ago, 49ers coach Mike Nolan said that he would split up his team's remaining 15 training camp practices with each of San Francisco's quarterbacks getting a turn with the first team. But O'Sullivan is now getting the majority of reps with the 49ers starting offense.

Nolan admitted Tuesday he has re-adjusted his plans, with less rotating among the quarterbacks than there was before. He said no final decision has been made, and no starter is ready to be named. Yet.

But O'Sullivan, who knows offensive coordinator Mike Martz' offense from their time together last season in Detroit, has emerged as the leader.

"I keep them all alive still," Nolan told Bay Area reporters. "Until I say differently, I'm going to keep them all alive. I like all three quarterbacks, I can't stress that enough. I feel good about all three of them.

"I know they both (Smith and Hill) can win games. I feel confident in both of them.

"J.T. is the newest product to what we've got, so I'm getting a longer look at him."

In Cincinnati, an idea that was roundly dismissed earlier this summer now is open to some discussion.

The Bengals are considering re-signing the talented, but troubled, Henry, who was suspended for the first eight games last season and will serve another four-game suspension to open this season.

Once word seeps out, and the public sounds off, it is entirely possible the Bengals will shy away from signing the controversial wide receiver. The idea, already debated within the organization, could die quickly and suddenly.

But the Bengals also know that no receiver would solve their needs quite as much as the one who already knows their offense, which is why the question about Henry has been raised and debated.

A Bengals official declined to confirm any discussions Tuesday, saying that personnel decisions are kept private. But another source close to the team said that Cincinnati has not seen exactly what it had hoped from its rookie wide receivers, second-round pick Jerome Simpson and third-round pick Andre Caldwell.

Simpson caught one pass for 13 yards against the Packers, Caldwell one for 11, but the receivers have found that getting off the line of scrimmage at the NFL level is different than doing it in college.

Should the Bengals bring back the 25-year-old Henry, who has been arrested five times, it would go against the words that Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis uttered at the start of training camp.

Asked about the possibility of signing Henry before camp opened, Lewis told reporters: "I'm not interested. I don't think it would be productive for our football team. You have to be a productive part to be an NFL player, and there's responsibilities to being an NFL player. It's a privilege, it's not a right. There's a lot that comes with being an NFL football player."

Since Lewis spoke, the NFL has allowed Henry to be reinstated and play the final 12 games of this season. If Henry were to sign with a team during the preseason, he would be allowed to participate in drills and games before sitting out the first four regular-season games.

Bear of a summer

On draft day, Chicago fortified its pass protection with the selection of Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams in the first round. But now Williams has undergone surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

The Bears are hoping he can return in 10-12 weeks. But the feeling around the league, and even in certain segments of the Bears organization, is that Williams will miss the rest of this season.

However it works out, it is a significant blow to the Bears. Without Williams, John St. Clair now has been elevated to starter. The Bears always could decide to switch John Tait there, but a line that needed upgrades has not gotten them in the manner the Bears planned.

Extra points

» Much of the hype showered on Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers will be transferred to Favre versus Chad Pennington in Week 1. But Favre can only hope this battle goes differently than his others vs. Pennington. In his only two starts against Pennington and the Jets, Favre has gone 0-2 and been outscored 80-27. "I'd just like to beat the guy for a change," Favre said Saturday.

» With his performance in Washington's first two preseason games, Redskins quarterback Colt Brennan has all but clinched a spot on his team's 53-man roster. Brennan has shown too much for Washington to release him and hope to get him back on to its practice squad. Despite being maligned in the process leading up to the draft, Brennan will make the Redskins' roster.

» When Green Bay plays at San Francisco on Saturday night, it will mark the first matchup between the top two quarterbacks drafted in 2005, Rodgers and Smith. Rodgers has been a bit busy recently to keep in touch with Smith, but the two have remained friends from the trip they shared to New York before the 2005 draft.

"It'll be good to see Aaron," Smith said Tuesday. "Aaron and I have always gotten along well when we've been around each other, especially through the draft stuff and all of that going on. He was always good to me, so I've always respected for that and I respect him as a player. (I) haven't even got to play against him in college so it'll be good to see him."

» Daunte Culpepper sent me an e-mail to report that he was unwilling to take the deal from the Steelers that Byron Leftwich did. Culpepper is prepared to wait for a better opportunity and when he gets it, he believes he will shine. "The workout went great, as per the (Steelers)," Culpepper wrote. "I feel great. It was good to get out and show the Steelers that I am healthy." And now that he's healthy, Culpepper is ready to prove it to other teams.

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