San Francisco (0-1) at New Orleans (0-1)

Partly Cloudy Currently: New Orleans, LA
Temp: 87° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EDT Sun Sep 19, 2004
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After cutting quarterback Jeff Garcia and giving Tim Rattay the starting job this summer, the San Francisco 49ers handed the backup position to unproven Ken Dorsey.

Following the first week of the season, Dorsey has been thrust into the starting role.

He’s expected to make his first NFL start in place of the injured Rattay when San Francisco visits the New Orleans Saints.

The Niners opened their season with a 21-19 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, and in the process, lost Rattay to a shoulder injury.

Rattay was hurt while getting sacked in the second quarter, and on Monday, was diagnosed with a separated right shoulder.

Coach Dennis Erickson said Dorsey, the former University of Miami star and a seventh-round draft pick in 2003, will start Sunday unless Rattay’s injury heals much more quickly than expected.

The Niners don’t know how long Rattay will be hindered by the injury.

“He’s ready for it,” Erickson said of Dorsey. “We have a lot of confidence in him, or else we wouldn’t do it. It doesn’t have to do with anything other than Tim’s health.”

Dorsey led a pair of scoring drives during his first extended NFL action after taking over last week, but he got a stinger in his right shoulder late in the third quarter. Rattay returned and led three lengthy drives, throwing two touchdown passes.

An MRI exam Monday revealed a serious shoulder separation for Rattay, who struggled with a groin injury and a sore forearm during the offseason and training camp.

“I was just getting over the groin (injury), and I got the forearm,” Rattay said. “And then I was getting over the forearm, and I get this. I’m keeping those guys busy in (the training room).”

Rattay finished his fourth NFL start 18-of-31 for 175 yards, while Dorsey was 9-of-15 for 111 yards.

Rattay believes he can get healthy enough to play Sunday.

“Hopefully I can practice at the end of the week, then shoot it up and go on Sunday,” he said.

But Dorsey, who had shaken off his stinger Monday, worked with the Niners’ first-team offense Wednesday.

“That’s just football,” Dorsey said. “I’ll be ready to go.”

Dorsey won a national championship and went 38-2 in four seasons as the starter in Miami, but slid to the seventh round of the draft because of questions about his arm strength.

New Orleans also began the 2004 season with a loss, falling 21-7 to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.

The Saints dropped to 11-27 in season debuts, a .297 winning percentage. New Orleans is 12-25 (.324) in September games during the past decade, the NFL’s fourth-worst record in the span, and is 5-8 in September under coach Jim Haslett.

“We’re not the same old Saints,” defensive end Charles Grant said after Sunday’s game. “We’re a much better football team than that. We just didn’t show it today.”

The Saints turned the ball over three times, and were outgained 415 to 281 and outrushed 194-74. They converted only three of 14 third-downs.

“Yeah, it’s just one game, but before long we’ll be saying its just two, three, four, five games,” center LeCharles Bentley said. “You have to learn from your mistakes. It’s kind of becoming redundant.”

The Saints spent the week working out in San Antonio, where they moved on Tuesday to escape approaching Hurricane Ivan.

The storm left New Orleans largely unscathed, so the game will go on despite early fears it might be moved to Texas or even postponed.

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