San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young said yesterday he still hopes he will be able to play again this season, even though his doctors are telling him he hasn't recovered sufficiently from a concussion suffered 4 1/2 weeks ago to risk competing in a game, and 49ers Coach Steve Mariucci called the possibility of Young's return "a long shot."
In an interview with Bay Area media yesterday at the 49ers' training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Young spoke at length for the first time since suffering a concussion when he was hit by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams on Sept. 27.
"I can't stand watching football," said Young, 38. "But at this point, it's a necessity. I don't have a time frame for it, I don't think the doctors have a time frame for it. Everyone I've seen says I will make a 1,000 percent recovery. I feel good now. It really is a function of time."
Although the possibility had been raised that the 49ers were considering placing Young on the injured reserve list yesterday, it did not happen. However, Mariucci told reporters: "I know we would all love him to be healthy and playing again. But it may be very unlikely that he gets back into a 49ers uniform. There's always that glimmer of hope, but let's be realistic. It's really a long shot."
"The injured reserve list has come up. We spoke about it briefly," Mariucci said. "It may happen. It may be inevitable, but we haven't decided as of yet. At this point, we don't need that roster spot. Now, if we get an injury or two, we may reconsider. And Steve knows that."
On Tuesday, Young's longtime friend and agent, Leigh Steinberg, said he was "determined [Young] not risk anything more this year. He's probably going to end up on injured reserve. This is a football injury. He was hurt on the field, and that's where those players go."
But Young said yesterday he is "through with most of the post-concussive symptoms," and added he remains hopeful he can return for the slumping 49ers, who have a 3-4 record after three consecutive losses in which they have scored only two offensive touchdowns with former Canadian Football League player Jeff Garcia at quarterback.
"I'm taking this thing to the end of the season," said Young, a two-time NFL most valuable player. "My focus right now clearly is on my health, but I am also focusing on my team. That's all I'm going to think about right now. . . .
"I think that because there is so much time left in the season, obviously the time frame is within range for possibility," Young said. "That is from all corners, not just my own."
Young said his primary physician remains neurologist Gary Steinberg (no relation to Leigh Steinberg) and that "I will not play unless Doctor Steinberg and the coaching staff and myself all feel that is the right thing to do." He also indicated he has consulted a number of other specialists on brain injuries.
While Gary Steinberg's opinion hasn't been disclosed, Young previously said the report was "discouraging." Young continued to refuse to discuss his doctor's long-term recommendations yesterday, but said: "He's telling me I can't play right now. . . . It's like any injury. You have to give it time to heal."
Mariucci and General Manager Bill Walsh have said they would give greatest weight to Gary Steinberg's conclusions, and they are in no hurry to see Young back on the field.