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49ers switching to Smith at QB

Overall No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith was promoted to be the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback yesterday, after just four games as Tim Rattay's backup.

Smith will make his first NFL start Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts at Candlestick Park. The former Utah star played in two of the 49ers' first four games, mopping up in losses to Philadelphia and Arizona.

''I feel that Alex gives us the best chance to win, and I believe he's ready," coach Mike Nolan said. ''Tim has handled everything very well, but at this time in the process, I believe it's time to get Alex in the game . . . At 1-3, we didn't draft Alex to just sit him on the bench. At 1-3, I believe we need to begin to utilize him."

Rattay completed 57.7 percent of his passes this season for 677 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. But the 49ers' offense has struggled, with stark deficiencies in time of possession, total yards (1,989-995) and points (132-76).

The 49ers managed just 168 total yards in last Sunday's 31-14 loss to Arizona in Mexico City. San Francisco's offense was shut out by the Cardinals, though Smith went 6 of 10 -- his first NFL completions -- for 34 yards after Rattay was pulled in the fourth quarter.

Jets making change

Vinny Testaverde will begin his third incarnation as the Jets' starting quarterback when coach Herm Edwards is expected to announce today that the 41-year-old will start Sunday against the Buccaneers, the New York Daily News reported. Brooks Bollinger, in his first NFL start, presided over one of the worst offensive performances in team history in a 13-3 loss to the Ravens last Sunday. Testaverde, who started for the Jets from 1998 to 2002 and again in 2003, will have participated in only six practices by the time he faces the Bucs' top-ranked defense . . . The Packers are 0-4 for the first time since 1988, when Lindy Infante's first team opened 0-5 on its way to a 4-12 season, and things aren't looking better after Monday's 32-29 loss to Carolina. Running back Ahman Green sprained his right knee; center Mike Flanagan aggravated a strained abdominal muscle; left tackle Chad Clifton sprained his left ankle; linebacker Na'il Diggs sprained his right medial collateral ligament; wide receiver/kick returner Terrence Murphy injured his neck; and safety Earl Little pulled his hamstring. None of them returned to the game. Murphy remains hospitalized after losing feeling in his extremities, but is said to be recovering.

Culpepper ailing

Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper has played nearly the entire season with a sprained medial collateral ligament and bursitis in his right knee, a condition that Culpepper admitted is painful and limiting, but should not force him to miss any games, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Culpepper has just four TD passes in four games this season with 10 interceptions . . . The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed wide receiver Darnerien McCants less than a week after he was released. Defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis was placed on injured reserve after tearing his right Achilles' tendon in Sunday's victory at Kansas City . . . Ten-time Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf will return to the lineup after missing most of the first four games when the Chiefs come off their bye week to play Washington Oct. 16. He has been sidelined with a hamstring injury . . . With starters Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram battling injuries, the Seattle Seahawks re-signed wide receiver Jerheme Urban . . . Free agent offensive lineman Larry Turner signed a two-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

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