Miss a game, miss a lot.
Lose a job? Maybe.
Alex Smith might have been cleared to resume practising with the San Francisco 49ers this week and is expected to be cleared to play Sunday against the New Orleans Orleans, but whether he'll be the starting quarterback or backup remained unclear Wednesday.
Smith suffered a concussion Nov. 11 against the St. Louis Rams and sat out Monday night's big win over the Chicago Bears while his little-experienced backup - second-year man Colin Kaepernick - played spectacularly well.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has not come out and flatly stated that Smith still is his No. 1 and, frankly, that is startling.
Harbaugh repeatedly has gone out of his way over the past two seasons to underscore the fact he has full confidence in Smith to lead the team to a Super Bowl win. Well, except for those few days back in March when Harbaugh and the 49ers brass unsuccessfully tried to woo Peyton Manning.
"We don't have a (quarterback) controversy," Harbaugh told a San Francisco radio station. "A controversy is argument with two opposing points of view. We have two quarterbacks with hot hands."
Maybe so, but by definition a quarterback controversy is when the public does not know whom the head coach will start.
"I will not announce the starting QB on (this radio) show," Harbaugh said.
Later, at a news conference, Harbaugh reiterated that an announcement was not forthcoming about the team's quarterback situation.
The Jacksonville Jaguars placed quarterback Blaine Gabbert on injured reserve, ending his season. In addition to playing terribly in his second season, Gabbert has battled injuries. Right forearm and left shoulder injuries finally did him in; surgery is next.
Chad Henne, who played so well in relief of Gabbert in a 43-37 overtime loss against the Houston Texans on Sunday, takes over.
CARDS GO WITH ROOKIE
Ryan Lindley will become the seventh rookie quarterback to start in the NFL this year. The Arizona Cardinals announced that Lindley will lead the team Sunday against visiting St. Louis.
Its a huge gamble by head coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose team has lost six straight after a 4-0 start.
Kevin Kolb, the ostensible starter heading into training camp, is still not 100% (Week 6 rib injury) but practised Wednesday. And Whisenhunt apparently has lost all confidence in John Skelton, who unseated Kolb by the end of training camp but struggled mightily to start the season.
Lindley, a sixth-round pick out of San Diego State, completed 9-of-20 passes for just 64 yards in two-plus quarters of last Sunday's 23-19 loss against the Atlanta Falcons.
Before April's draft, few experts saw Lindley as anything other than a long-term project with major delivery and accuracy issues.
That Whisenhunt thinks Lindley gives his reeling team the best chance to stop the team's slide probably says more about the coach's utter lack of faith in Skelton and Kolb.
Not that it's unfounded.
Helping Lindley this Sunday will be the return of running back Beanie Wells, who had been on injured reserve since September with turf toe.
Concussed Bears quarterback Jay Cutler practised Wednesday on a limited basis. He would still need to be cleared by an independent neurologist before being allowed to play in Sunday's important NFC North game against the Minnesota Vikings.
"I don't know, well see," Cutler said Wednesday when asked if he'd play.
IN NON-QB NEWS
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown practised Wednesday for the first time in more than two weeks after spraining an ankle ... Minnesota wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) did not practise ... Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed told the Baltimore Sun that while he's happy his one-game suspension was lifted on appeal, he's still "not happy with the 50-grand (fine), but what can you do? (It's) a shame it even came to this point" ... The earliest that Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee (non-surgical tear in left MCL) could return from injured reserve is the AFC championship game ... Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said he "felt no pain whatsoever" after practising for the first time since having surgery Nov. 1 to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Don't expect him back this week, though ... Plaxico Burress, 24 hours after the Steelers signed him, said he could play as early as this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. "I don't see why not," he said ... Dallas Cowboys defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan, apparently trying to do his best imitation of brother Rex, said this to the Dallas Morning News about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III: "I dont like him, but I know he is very talented."