SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Alex Smith and Vernon Davis got valuable recovery time during the San Francisco 49ers' bye week. They just don't know if they got enough to play Sunday.
The quarterback and his talented target returned to certain parts of practice Wednesday after missing most of San Francisco's last two games with injuries. Coach Mike Nolan wouldn't speculate on their chances to play against the New York Giants, but both are cautiously optimistic -- perhaps Davis more than Smith.
"I'll play," said Davis, out since Sept. 23 with a knee injury. "It feels good to be back in there. The more you practice, the better and the more comfortable we're going to get."
Smith participated in individual drills and threw the ball fairly well, but wasn't put into team drills. The third-year pro had hoped to test his separated right shoulder, which was in a sling shortly after he was hurt on the third play of San Francisco's loss to Seattle on Sept. 30.
"We felt it wasn't quite ready to go today," Smith said, citing his conversations with coaches and trainers. "It's coming, though. It's always tough watching practice. I was able to do a lot of individual stuff (and) throw routes. It's better than sitting on the trainers' table."
"It's tough not to get the reps and then go out there and play at the highest level," Smith said.
Trent Dilfer took the first-team snaps in Wednesday's practice for the 49ers (2-3), who have lost three straight with an offense stuck near the bottom of the NFL in most statistical categories.
Though Smith was only moderately effective earlier in the year, the 49ers remain committed to the former No. 1 pick's development -- and besides, they don't have a more appetizing alternative. Dilfer didn't do any better than Smith in the Niners' last two losses, including the unit's 163-yard performance against Baltimore before the bye.
And since Dilfer still is committed to mentoring Smith, he's hoping for his protege's quick return.
"He's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around," Dilfer said. "He's going to approach this thing with great intensity and great desire. He'll get back as quick as he can."
Nolan didn't name a starting quarterback, preferring to watch Smith's progress over the week. He also realizes the value of forcing the Giants to prepare for two quarterbacks with distinctly different playing styles.
"I will know more and more each day through the amount of reps that (Smith) takes," Nolan said. "Then I can get a better feel for what it is."
The coach also isn't worried about throwing Smith into the lineup against New York's vaunted pass rush, led by defensive ends Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck -- even after the pounding that Smith and Dilfer took from Seattle's equally impressive line three weeks earlier.
"If I'm healthy, I'm healthy," Smith said. "I don't think the pass rush of the opponent's team should come into play. If I'm healthy, let's go."
Davis said he participated in every aspect of Wednesday's workout in his comeback from a knee injury that kept him out of the last two games with a sprained ligament. The former No. 6 overall pick has just eight catches for 83 yards in what he expects to be his breakout NFL season.
Though Davis struggled to get his quarterback's attention at times before his injury, he's still hoping he'll be the spark for San Francisco's struggling passing offense.
"This game, I anticipate getting a lot of balls our way," Davis said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press