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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick looks for a pass against the New England Patriots in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts December 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

SANTA CLARA -- Defensive tackle Justin Smith did not practice Wednesday because of an elbow injury, casting a hint of doubt that his streak of 185 consecutive starts could end Sunday when the 49ers visit Seattle.

Smith observed practice after working out in the team's weight room. He wore no visible arm brace for the injury that he sustained in the third quarter of Sunday's 41-34 win at New England.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said Smith's injury will take a couple more days to evaluate, adding that Smith will play "if humanly possible."

Smith's streak, the third-longest among active players, has overcome rib and finger injuries over the years. Asked in June if he dealt with any significant injury last season, Smith replied: "I had some stuff. Not significant. Significant means you're out. I've been lucky."

In the event Smith is out Sunday, linebacker Patrick Willis said the defense will turn to Ricky Jean Francois. "Injuries happen and that offers opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute," Willis said. "And Ricky Jean is that guy for us right now. I have complete confidence in him."

Jean Francois has three career starts, including one this season in place of nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. Jean Francois had a fourth-quarter sack Sunday night.

  • Colin Kaepernick won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award, which perhaps should come with a warning label. Alex Smith earned the same honor for his near-perfect outing Oct. 29 at Arizona, only to sustain a concussion in his next game and effectively lose his job to Kaepernick.


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    It's the fourth time that two different 49ers quarterbacks have won that award in the same season: Joe Montana and Steve Young in 1988 and 1990; Young and Steve Bono in 1991. Kaepernick threw a career-high four touchdown passes Sunday night, joining Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to do so at Gillette Stadium.

    "There's a lot of great players on this team that put in the effort for that award to come around," Kaepernick said.

  • Asked to describe the "hallmark" of Pete Carroll-coached teams, Harbaugh deadpanned: "I don't remember getting any cards from him -- at the holidays."

    Carroll picked up on the joke 11/2 hours later in his conference call with Bay Area media. "I heard he didn't get one from us yet," Carroll said of a Christmas card. "I'll go back and check my list to see how that happened. If Jim's not sending a card, that's OK, I'll understand. We'll send one along in the mail soon."

  • Carroll accused Harbaugh of "just trying to get some help from the officials" regarding Harbaugh's postgame insinuations that Seahawks cornerbacks got away with illegal contact in their Oct. 18 matchup. Added Carroll: "I did go back and look at the film to see what Jim was talking about. And I had trouble seeing why there was a complaint."

  • Shoulder injuries are rampant. Clark Haggans did not practice because of his. Limited by theirs were linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, cornerback Tarell Brown, wide receiver Mario Manningham and fullback Bruce Miller.

  • Defensive tackle Will Tukuafu (concussion) and linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs) were limited.

  • Left guard Mike Iupati, who briefly left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, practiced fully. So did guard Alex Boone (knee), running back Frank Gore (wrist), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), kicker David Akers (pelvis) and linebackers Patrick Willis (shoulder) and NaVorro Bowman (shoulder).

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.