SAN FRANCISCO — When Alex Smith and Randy Moss arrived on opposite sides of the San Francisco Bay last spring, the 49ers' rookie quarterback and the Raiders' veteran receiver immediately became the single best reasons to watch their new teams this season.
And when Smith and Moss make simultaneous debuts in the preseason opener Saturday night, fans of both teams will get a double dose of the future in Bay Area football, where an NFL-crazy metroplex hasn't had much to cheer in the last two seasons.
What's more, new San Francisco coach Mike Nolan will be on the sideline at Candlestick Park for the first time, coaching his new 3-4 defense against Oakland's restocked offense, which includes new running back LaMont Jordan.
It might be the most tantalizing edition of the annual Battle of the Bay — but it's still just a preseason game.
Nolan called it "a semi-rivalry," and players on both sides agree.
"Whatever good or bad that happens in the game, everything will be an indicator to me about where we are as a team," Nolan said. "It will also give me a great idea on the structure we set up for the game, whether it is the coaching staff, the guys in the box or the guys on the field."
And while Moss might break loose for a catch or two, the Raiders plan to keep him safe. Not so for Smith, who will be in San Francisco's starting lineup for at least 20 plays behind an offensive line missing four-fifths of its projected starters.
"I want to see how he responds to that," Nolan said. "Obviously, they will be after his tail. A lot of those guys would certainly like to get a shot at the rookie, and I want to see how he handles it."
And Smith knows he shouldn't expect any mercy from trash-talking Warren Sapp, speedy Charles Woodson and the Raiders' defense.
"I'm the No. 1 pick in the draft on the opposing side, so I'll present a nice target for them," Smith said. "I wouldn't expect it any (other) way. The quarterback is always a target, but that's why we have pads, so I'll be all right."
EAGLES LIMPING: With Terrell Owens bound for the Bahamas and taking a break from blasting the Eagles, Donovan McNabb figured it was time to welcome potential replacements.
Philly fans, this is what you could be left with if Owens never returns to the Eagles:
"I'd like for all of you to introduce yourselves to Greg Lewis, Billy McMullen, Brian Westbrook, Reggie Brown," McNabb said after Friday's practice.
That's not exactly Owens and Todd Pinkston. Heck, that's not even Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell.
Whether Owens ever plays for Philadelphia again is anyone's guess. With Owens banished for a week and Pinkston out for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, the Eagles go into Monday's preseason opener against Pittsburgh with Lewis (23 career catches in two seasons) and rookie Brown as their starting wide receivers.
TENNESSEE IMPASSE: Negotiations between Adam "Pacman" Jones and the Tennessee Titans reached an impasse Friday, the cornerback's agent said before returning to Jacksonville, Fla. Jones, the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft, has remained in Jacksonville where he is working out with a personal trainer.
That was news to general manager Floyd Reese. "I don't think I've ever seen this," Reese said an hour before the Titans kicked off their opening preseason game against Tampa Bay. "So this one's kind of new."
BILLS' PARRISH HAS SURGERY: Bills wide receiver Roscoe Parrish had surgery on his injured right wrist Friday, but the rookie is expected to play this season.
The second-round draft pick out of Miami fell on his right wrist while diving for a pass during training camp on Wednesday. The Bills, who will play their preseason opener in Indianapolis on Saturday, didn't announce the nature of Parrish's injury or give a timetable for his return.