Singletary will wait to name starter for preseason opener vs. Denver

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco coach Mike Singletary might wait until Thursday before deciding on a starting quarterback for the 49ers' exhibition opener against Denver.

Shaun Hill or Alex Smith? Alex Smith or Shaun Hill? The two have been fairly even through the first 10 days of training camp, and both should get plenty of chances against the Broncos on Friday night.

Willis' status in doubt

49ers LB Patrick Willis has yet to return to practice after suffering a strained ankle on the first day of camp and his status for Friday's preseason opener vs. Denver is uncertain. More ...

"We'll talk about it prior to the game, figure it out," Singletary said Monday. "We're in no rush to do that."

Singletary plans to keep the competition and evaluation process going through the third preseason game Aug. 29 at Dallas, naming a starter soon after that game. No surprise, both QBs have said they expect to win the job.

Their performances in the exhibition games will factor into the decision.

"That's part of it. Hopefully, as we said before, by the third preseason game I think we'll have a pretty decent idea," Singletary said. "There's no guarantee we'll name someone then but hopefully at that time we will. I think the preseason games play a big role. We're going against somebody totally different. We just have to continue to see how they respond, how the team responds to them, how they respond to the pass rush, all those little things."

Hill went 5-3 last season after being named the starter midway through the year. Smith missed all of the 2008 season after reinjuring his surgically repaired right shoulder in practice three days before the season opener. He was placed on injured reserve.

Smith completed 20 straight passes spanning two practices Saturday.

Things didn't go nearly as well Monday afternoon -- Smith got kicked out of practice by Singletary.

The perfectionist coach warned his team that its sloppiness with the ball would earn the next person to commit a turnover a trip to the top of the hill just off the field to watch.

Smith threw a pass intended for Vernon Davis and it was tipped. Marcus Hudson came up with the interception. Singletary greeted the QB later, knowing full well it was bad luck.

No hard feelings by Smith.

"You can't throw the ball into town meetings," Smith said. "You can't turn the ball over, that's the bottom line. That's the point coach is trying to make, and it's the right point. You lose ballgames like that."

Smith's teammates were supportive afterward.

"Both quarterbacks have done a tremendous job," center Eric Heitmann said earlier in the day. "For us, we see completions. They both have a commanding presence in the huddle. That's another situation as an offensive unit where we have two guys back there who are great players. We'd be fortunate to have either one of them starting for us."

Friday's game also will mark a reunion between Singletary and the man he replaced last October, Mike Nolan. Nolan is Denver's new defensive coordinator, and the two Mikes still keep in touch.

"The most important thing I learned from Coach Nolan is the work ethic," Singletary said. "I don't have to guess if there was any other team in the last 20 or 30 years that was in as bad of shape as this team was when Mike and I came here together. I saw Mike come in, roll up his sleeves and go to work trying to bring a structure to this organization and trying to bring about a mental toughness, trying to bring about character and all of those things. Mike will always be a great friend."

NOTES: FB Moran Norris was absent again for personal reasons. ... CB Terrail Lambert was shaken up after a hard collision with WR Micheal Spurlock, who caught a pass from Smith under pressure from Lambert. He was down for several minutes but got up on his own. Singletary said he was OK. ... RB Glen Coffee was limited during Monday's first practice by a sore ankle. ... LB Patrick Willis (ankle strain) is still out after getting hurt on the first day of camp and Singletary isn't sure about his status for Friday's game.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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