SANTA CLARA -- Rather than answer questions about the 49ers' simmering quarterback debate Tuesday afternoon, coach Jim Harbaugh was undergoing a follow-up evaluation for an irregular heartbeat.

Harbaugh's late afternoon news conference was canceled, and no further details were given regarding Harbaugh's health. The second-year NFL coach experienced a rapid heartbeat last Wednesday, prompting him to seek medical treatment for a condition that also arose 13 years earlier.

Harbaugh's young quarterback did address the quarterback issue earlier Tuesday. A day after decidedly winning his starting debut, Colin Kaepernick stated he wants to keep playing and wants no part of a 49ers quarterback controversy with sidelined starter Alex Smith.

"I don't want there to be a controversy," Kaepernick said in an ESPN Radio interview. "I just want to do whatever's best for this team, whatever is going to help us win games."

Smith's medical condition is also pertinent to the 49ers' quarterback discussion. Monday, Smith failed to receive medical clearance from a Nov. 11 concussion, and if post-concussion symptoms persist, Kaepernick assuredly will start Sunday's visit to the New Orleans Saints.

If Smith is cleared to play and reclaims his starting job, don't expect Kaepernick to be flashing the smile he wore throughout Monday's breakout start, when he passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-7 win over the Chicago Bears.


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"Obviously I'd be disappointed. I want to play," Kaepernick said on ESPN Radio. "But at the same time, that's their decision. If they think that's best for the team, that's what we're going to go with."

Harbaugh, in his postgame news conference, wouldn't commit to either quarterback for the 49ers' next game. He said he tends to ride the "hot hand" and insisted that Smith and Kaepernick both qualify.

Kaepernick, in an interview with NFL Network, reiterated his desire to remain the starter and stated: "That's going to be coach's decision. I'm not going to be in his ear about any of that."

Steve Young, perhaps the foremost expert on quarterback controversies, worked Monday's game as an ESPN analyst and said Tuesday on "SportsCenter" that Smith should be the 49ers' unquestioned starter.

"It's got to be Alex Smith," Young said. "He's got the body of work. This is a team that can go to the Super Bowl.

" ... I understand the excitement for Colin, and it's well deserved after yesterday," Young continued. "I know that feeling. It happened to me. But when it comes down to crunchtime, is this the time to play with that? Jim Harbaugh's got to make the challenge. But for my money, you've got to have Alex Smith be the quarterback."

Young suggested that Kaepernick be kept nipping at Smith's heels to create further competition between the two.

"But you've got to declare Alex Smith the starter," Young added, "or else you're going to create all kinds of things you don't want that are going to take your team away from the Super Bowl."

Smith, an eighth-year veteran, started the previous 28 games for the 49ers, including last season's playoff run to the NFC Championship game.

John York, the 49ers co-owner, told CSN Bay Area he was surprised Smith wasn't cleared to play Monday night after practicing last week. "But when I was told that he had symptoms and he was not going to be able to play, that's the protocol, I accept it," said York, who chairs the NFL Owners Committee on Health and Safety.

Although Harbaugh usually conducts noon news conferences at the 49ers facility the day after home games, a conference call was scheduled Monday night considering the late work shift. The media was notified five minutes before the call that Harbaugh would be unable to participate.

Harbaugh is next scheduled to address the media Wednesday at noon, two hours before practice.

Harbaugh showed no ill effects of his heart condition Monday, either through his actions, speech or body language. He said Friday that doctors placed no limitations on him other than to alter his diet and cut down on caffeine.

  • The only NFC team with a better record than the 49ers (7-2-1) is the Atlanta Falcons (9-1).

  • Safety Eddie Whitley was added to the practice squad. Whitley participated in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys and replaces defensive lineman Matthew Masifilo, who was signed last week to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' active roster.

  • The 49ers are allowing a league-low 13.4 points per game, which would break the franchise record of 13.6 points per game from the 1976 season.

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.

    Sunday's game
    49ers (7-2-1) at New Orleans (5-5), 1:25 p.m. FOX