ATLANTA - Todd McClure has endured some tough times with the Atlanta Falcons.
As the team's starting center since October 2000, McClure has snapped the ball for Chris Chandler, Michael Vick, Doug Johnson, Matt Schaub, Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich.
McClure can't imagine that any of his quarterbacks would have handled this year's difficulty better than Harrington.
'It's a testament to Joey that he never complained one minute when they sat him down,' McClure said Thursday. 'He continued to have a strong input and work as hard as he always did. Hopefully, his hard work will pay off for us this week.'
After spending one game as the No. 2 quarterback, Harrington will start again when the Falcons (1-6) host San Francisco (2-5) on Sunday.
First-year coach Bobby Petrino benched Harrington in favor of Leftwich following a 31-10 home loss to the New York Giants three weeks ago. Leftwich lasted just one start, though, undergoing ankle surgery following a six-point defeat at New Orleans on Oct. 21.
Harrington was bitterly disappointed when Petrino benched him, but the former Oregon standout never changed his approach in practice. Considering that Leftwich might not return for another three weeks, Harrington's attitude could serve the Falcons well.
'No, I don't prepare any differently,' Harrington said. 'My preparation remains the same whether I am the backup or the starter. Everything feels the same.'
With a career record of 24-48, Harrington has yet to start on a team that began the season with reasonable expectations to make the playoffs. The former No. 3 overall draft pick of 2002 spent his first four years with Detroit and last season with Miami.
Even so, Harrington isn't one to complain. He doesn't believe there's another current NFL player who has lived through more trying circumstances, at least on the field, than he has the last six seasons.
Ask him if the injury-riddled offensive line will hold up well enough for Atlanta to beat the 49ers, and Harrington doesn't blink.
'Last year, I was on a team that started 1-5 and by Thanksgiving we were .500,' Harrington said. 'It is very possible. With the exception of the New York game, there has not been a game in which we have been out of. We have had a chance to win about every game so we are not trying to make huge strides in one week. We just need to regroup. The bye week has allowed us to get our feet underneath us.'
It's unlikely that four-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler will return from knee and ankle injuries by Sunday. The Falcons are also starting their third left tackle, Quinn Ojinnaka, in the last four games.
Right tackle Tyson Clabo, who's filling in while Todd Weiner recuperates from ankle surgery, could start for the third straight game.
Lining up without Crumpler, though, makes Harrington's job even more difficult.
'It is a huge loss if he cannot go on Sunday,' Harrington said. 'He is somebody that I look for on every play. He is the type of player who can make a play for you. He is the type of guy who can make the spectacular play. Without him in the lineup means that everyone has to pick up the slack a little bit. It will give our young players a chance to shine.'
Notes: The Falcons waived cornerback Brent Grimes and signed defensive lineman Tim Anderson, whom the Buffalo Bills released last month. Anderson, a third-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2004, spent the last four seasons in Buffalo. ... Along with Crumpler, defensive lineman Montavious Stanley (knee) did not practice.
SideBar: 49ers at Falcons
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Georgia Dome