QB Hill Returns to 49ers Practice

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill never thought he had seriously injured his back.

Hill returned to practice for the 49ers on Thursday and deemed himself more than healthy enough to play Saturday night at Dallas in the team's third exhibition game.

Hill left Wednesday's training camp workout after throwing one pass because of a strained lower back that he injured Tuesday, and coach Mike Singletary said at the time he was unsure of Hill's status for the game against the Cowboys. With any injury, major or minor, to a quarterback - and especially a hurt back - a team will be particularly cautious.

"Everything felt good," Hill said Thursday. "It was nice to get out there and be able to practice. If anything, in my mind, it wasn't as bad as everybody else thought, that's for sure. I knew there wasn't a whole lot to it."

Hill called the injury a "freak thing."

Hill, who was named the regular-season starting quarterback Monday by Singletary over Alex Smith, said his back calmed down "quite a bit." He's not sure how long he will play Saturday.

"It will continue to get better from here on," Hill said. "It was basically, 'Let's have a day of rest and everything will be better,' and it was."

Hill, the 29-year-old former undrafted free agent out of Maryland, went 5-3 over the Niners' final eight games last season and was 2-0 as a fill-in starter in 2007. He also has never lost at home as a starter at Candlestick Park in five games over the past two years.

It's still sinking in for Hill that even when he's tight or has a minor tweak it will be a big deal considering he's now the No. 1 man under center. Entering his eighth NFL season, Hill began his career with Minnesota before signing with the Niners as an unrestricted free agent in June 2006. He has never started a season opener and has only 10 career starts.

"All that stuff's a little new to me, I guess," he said, chuckling. "You guys just have to forgive me, I'm a little naive about all that stuff. If there was anything pressing, my mother and father would have known without reading it. They would have known from me instead of reading it. So, yeah, everything's fine."