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.
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.
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."