The price of a finger.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Oct 10 at 4:00 p.m. ET by Tim Keeney
It sounds, at least according to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, as though Alex Smith will be ready to go against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (via csnbayarea.com's Matt Maiocco):
Jim Harbaugh saw Alex Smith (right middle finger sprain) throw yesterday. Smith is fine, he said. #49ersTalk— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) October 10, 2012
The 49ers probably could have handled the Bills thanks to their elite defense and stellar running game, but this is good news for fantasy owners who will be riding Smith's hot—and apparently healthy—hand.
---End of update---
UPDATE: Tuesday, October 9 at 8:10 p.m. ET by Richard Langford
The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch passed along this quote from head coach Jim Harbaugh:
It's very much of a concern. We'll see how it is. Alex, it's well-documented how tough he is. He talks about it not being a big deal. So we'll see.
In one breath, Harbaugh essentially said we can't take Smith at his word when he says it's not a "big deal." And understandably so. An injured middle finger on the throwing hand could be very problematic.
It wouldn't take much for that to alter his grip and release point.
---End of update---
After absolutely torching the Bills to the tune of 303 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-24 passing (good enough for a near-perfect QB rating of 156.2), Smith injured his middle finger on his throwing hand on his last throw of the game. According to ESPN's Mike Sando, the details of Smith's injury are minimal, at best:
Smith was seen entering the X-ray room adjacent to the 49ers' locker room. Coach Jim Harbaugh was not far behind, but he turned back before entering and headed into the postgame interview room nearby. Harbaugh said during his news conference he wasn't sure which finger Smith had injured, or how badly.
Smith emerged a few minutes later. He wore a light wrap on the finger during his postgame news conference. He said he thought the finger might be sprained, but he was not certain. He did not sound concerned.
With the exception of the entire San Francisco 49ers defense getting cursed The Simpsons style, this is the last thing the 49ers need, although it doesn't sound like Smith's injury is anything major.
The often-criticized quarterback has seen his 2011 form, which finally helped him drop the "bust" label, carry over in emphatic fashion.
Last season, Smith proved he was capable of playing the perfect "game-manager" role while mixing in some big-time plays and big-time throws. This season, he's doing the same thing, just without the "game-manager" part.
Through five games, the former Utah stud has completed 68.6 percent of his throws for 1,087 yards (217.4 per game), eight touchdowns and one interception. His QB rating is well over 100.0 after Sunday's dominant performance.
Combine the suddenly stellar QB play with the best defense in the league, and the term "Super Bowl or bust" comes to mind.
Should Smith be forced to sidelines, though, second-year man Colin Kaepernick would have to take over. He has shown plenty of potential as an exciting player, but with just seven total NFL pass attempts under his belt, the Niners would undoubtedly take a step back with him under center.
But that's talk for another day. For now, it seems as though Smith's finger injury is minor. If he isn't on the field when San Francisco hosts the defending Super Bowl champs next week, it would be surprising, but we'll keep you updated as more becomes known.