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Alex Smith at crossroads

SANTA CLARA

At 2:25 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Alex Smith had not been cleared to play Monday night against the Chicago Bears. I know this for a fact. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman conducted a news conference and said Smith had not been cleared.

Smith wore a black jersey during Saturday's practice. Although the black jersey bears a feeling of doom, the black is merely symbolic. It means Smith's teammates can't whack him during drills, but players never can whack a quarterback in practice. So, the black jersey is redundant. While it may not be a negative symbol, neither is it positive. It indicates, "Injured, handle with care." And it raises the question: Will Smith be ready to start Monday night?

FYI, Colin Kaepernick, the backup QB, wore a flaming red jersey, the full-speed-ahead, let's-get-it-on jersey.

Shortly after Roman left the interview tent, the 49ers sent out an email declaring Smith "questionable," which I take as 50-50, although I believe he will play. More on that in a moment. Leading up to the game, Kaepernick has gotten more practice reps than he usually does and Smith has gotten fewer. Roman admitted this. He said Smith got enough reps if he gets cleared to play. Smith still needs to pass neurological protocols, which he had not passed as I write this column. And he needs to go through a final "contact" drill to determine his game-readiness.

Joe Staley, who's undergone the concussion protocol, explained that the contact phase of the tests can happen up until game time.

Cohn: "What's a contact test?"

Staley: "For me, I just basically had to bang against another person with my helmet. Quarterbacks would probably be different. Their job doesn't consist of banging helmets with someone."

Cohn: "How long did your contact test last?"

Staley: "A minute, a few minutes."


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