Davis clears waivers, signed to practice squad

It’s been said ad nauseam that it takes much more than a rocket arm to be a successful NFL quarterback.

But the point has rarely been illustrated so vividly as it was this week. Consider the case of Nate Davis, 23, who can throw a pigskin to Pleasanton but, with his services available, could only inspire yawns from 31 NFL teams.

Davis, the 49ers former third-string quarterback who was waived by the club Monday, cleared waivers and was signed to the team’s practice squad this afternoon. He can be still be signed at any time by a team willing to put him on its active roster. The 49ers released undrafted rookie quarterback Jarrett Brown to make room for Davis on the eight-man practice squad.

The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Davis wowed a segment of the fan base during the preseason with his Howitzer arm. But he underwhelmed coach Mike Singletary with his work ethic and grasp of the offense. In the NFL, those are clearly qualities that can make even the most physically gifted signal-caller practice-squad material.

Even the Seahawks, who have signed or traded for three 49ers this summer, didn’t make a claim for Davis, whose agent, Joel Segal, did not immediately return a phone message this afternoon. Seattle, which has former Niners general manager Scot McCloughan in its front office, has only two quarterbacks on its active roster.

In an effort to find a third-stringer who could push backup David Carr, the 49ers signed four-year veteran Troy Smith on Monday. Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, was released by the Ravens on Saturday.

“It’s fairly simple,” Singletary said this morning before Davis cleared waivers. “I think right now if we had to go into a game with Nate Davis, right now it would be a difficult situation for us. It would be tough. We do have David Carr, but I wanted the guy who is the third quarterback, I really wanted him to be able to compete with the number two, and right now that is not the case. Hopefully we’re able to keep Nate Davis and he will be our practice-squad quarterback, but if it doesn’t work out, then I feel it was a risk worth taking to get the player we did, so that’s why.”

If Smith, 26, wasn’t already aware of Singletary’s expectations for his quarterbacks, it didn’t take him long to find out.

“(Singletary) made that clear to me as soon as I got here that he wants workers,” said Smith, who played at Ohio State with Niners wide receiver Ted Ginn and offensive tackle Alex Boone. “… There were a couple of different things (he said), but obviously, first and foremost, work hard.”

As for Carr, he earned lukewarm reviews from Singletary during the preseason. And the nine-year veteran wasn’t surprised to learn he’ll face competition to maintain his second-string spot. Carr expressed confidence that he’ll maintain his backup role.

“I look at it this way,” Carr said, “if I perform the way I know I can, if I prepare the way I know I can, I shouldn’t have to worry about any of that stuff. That’s just how I go about it and it’s worked out pretty good.”

Carr, the starter for five years in Houston, knows a little about what it takes to run an NFL offense. He praised Davis’ ability, saying he’s seen quarterbacks with less talent win Super Bowls.

But was he shocked when he learned Davis had been released this week? C’mon, Carr’s smile seemed to suggest, this is the NFL.

“Nothing surprises me any more, honestly,” Carr said before Davis cleared waivers. “I know how they felt about him. I know that they liked him. I know that he had unbelievable talent. It’s just things that each player has to work through. It’s not all about throwing the football. It’s about running the team and getting the guys to believe in you. You’ve got a lot of guys that are depending on you to do well and you want to make sure that you know your stuff.”