Alex Smith will start; Willis will miss first career game

Sunday’s game against the visiting Cardinals may not have much meaning, but, fittingly, there was plenty of news to come out of Santa Clara. Why should today be any different as the Niners close out a drama-filled, news-stuffed season?

• Alex Smith will get start at quarterback against Arizona, marking the fourth time since Nov. 15 the Niners have made a quarterback switch (five if you count the in-game switch from Troy Smith to Alex Smith against the Rams).

Jim Tomsula said he consulted with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, but, ultimately, the interim coach made the decision.

“Obviously we talked about it,” Tomsula said. “I led the conversation in the area I wanted it to go.”

Of course, the last big decision of Mike Singletary’s 40-game tenure was his choice of quarterbacks for last week’s must-win game at St. Louis. Singletary chose Troy Smith. And last week’s backup conceded today that he wasn’t thrilled when Singletary gave him the news.

“Definitely emotional, frustrated,” Alex Smith said. “I definitely voiced my opinion that’s for sure. I wasn’t sitting back and taking it.”

Smith, who is an unrestricted free agent after the season, reiterated his stance that he won’t discuss his future until after the season.

“That’s all out there,” he said of the possibility of Sunday marking the end of his six seasons in San Francisco. “Those are possibilities. But I’ll have enough time to ponder and think about all that stuff after the season.”

• LB Patrick Willis won’t play Sunday after having another surgical procedure on his broken right hand.

Willis, who will miss the first game of his four-year career, may have further damaged the hand in Sunday’s game at St. Louis. Tomsula and a team spokesman didn’t specify the nature of the procedure, but Tomsula said Willis wouldn’t have been able to play against Arizona, even if the game had playoff implications.

Willis spoke on a conference call Tuesday afternoon after his selection to the Pro Bowl. But he didn’t want to discuss his broken hand, which was heavily wrapped, today in the locker room.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

Willis, who has played in 63 straight games, is one of three players from the 2007 draft class (Carolina LB Jon Beason and Browns T Joe Thomas) to have played in every game since being drafted.

• Rookie LB NaVorro Bowman will get his first career start in Willis’ absence. After sharing time with Takeo Spikes earlier this season, Bowman, a third-round pick, has played primarily on special teams – posting just one tackle in the past six games. Bowman does have a team-high 24 tackles on special teams.

• The Niners, who waived RB DeShawn Wynn on Monday, filled the spot by signing LB Alex Joseph, a rookie from Temple University

Joseph was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Packers and has spent time on the Raiders’ and Panthers’ practice squads this season. The 6-2, 240-pound Joseph, who was signed off Carolina’s practice squad, earned third-team All-Mid-American Conference honors last year at Temple.

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